Warning: Contains Spoilers!
He bowed his head and wept silently beneath the crescent summer moon.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: There’s quite a bit going on in the layer under this chapter’s main events. We’ve got Arthur and Gwen’s mutually healing relationship (I surmise that in the Brown family, Arthur is closer to his mother, while Audrey spent more time with Albert). Then there’s Piccadilly’s first uncomfortable stay in the Skirtings and his feelings of being unable to fit in no matter how friendly the Browns and Twit are. We’ve also got the beginnings of Gwen’s tempestuous duel-of-wits with Thomas, the bond of the Chitter family and insights into Oswald’s parents, Twit’s strained bravery in the face of his cousin’s decline, and finally, Audrey and Piccadilly and their …thing.
I admit I never really boarded the Audrey and Piccadilly Train when I was younger. Nowadays, I’m so on board that train I’ve got a seat in the front carriage, but while I love both these characters individually and agree that their relationship is a wonderfully-written drama, I’ve always sort of had the idea that they’re not really that compatible. Or at least, that they met at completely the wrong time and in the wrong circumstances.
Their trouble is that they both have really strong personalities – neither is willing to give any ground whatsoever to the other, so instead of communicating, they stew in silence, bottling up things which really need to be spoken aloud. There’s also Audrey’s unaddressed grief and Piccadilly’s deep-rooted existential angst to complicate matters. By the time this chapter draws to a close, we share Audrey’s frustration and Piccadilly’s regret, and the joy of Oswald’s recovery is mingled with sorrow for a friendship that seems unsalvageable.
Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter is a little bit of a mouse soap opera: someone is sick and gets miraculously better, a boy and girl have a fight instead of telling each other how they feel. Mr Jarvis actually packs in a whole bunch of moods and feelings in one chapter, which I’m in awe of. I’m still not entirely sure how he does it!
But we have the heartbreak of Oswald dying, the humorous aspects of the altercation between Master Oldnose and Thomas Triton, the joy when Oswald recovers and the inevitable moment where a budding romance runs into an obstacle – in this case, Audrey and Piccadilly being unable to say what they really feel.
The only possible problem that you might be having – if this is the first time that you’ve read the book – is that it’s not entirely clear who the antagonist is in this book, and what kind of peril our heroes might be in. So far, it just sounds like Audrey, Arthur and Twit (and not Piccadilly) are facing an unpleasantly long holiday in the countryside with a mad rat. But have no fear, readers – The Crystal Prison is going to ramp up quite nicely in the second half. So savour the sounds of the whisker fiddle and bark drum and enjoy your berrybrew – things are going to heat up.