The Crystal Prison | Chapter 5

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

From somewhere in her dreams a voice seemed to be calling to her: ‘Akkikuyu! Akkikuyu – are you there?’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Just as with last chapter, there’s a lot going on here below the surface. Let’s start with the atmosphere. It is summer; the moon is round, the weather is warm, Oswald is better. On the face of it, things are hunky-dory for our heroes.

Except that they are not.

Audrey is not coping with the dual heartbreaks of leaving her mother and her life-long home so soon after her father’s death. What’s more, she has ruined things with Piccadilly, and the prospect of having to spend the rest of her days looking after a senile old rat in a country backwater she’s never seen with people she’s never met is finally beginning to hit her in all its misery.

Meanwhile, Madame Akkikuyu has a new suffering to add to her list in the form of a sinister, disembodied voice which plagues her sleep. For anyone who has ever dealt with mental illness and/or intrusive thoughts, Akkikuyu’s fear and despondency hit painfully close to home.

During the scene where everyone says their goodbyes, we also get another glimpse into Thomas’ secret and buried torments. Twit’s unknowing, well-meaning correction of Thomas’ misuse of his name should make the midshipmouse’s momentary lapse seem inconsequential; instead it looms large, drawing our attention, causing us to wonder what sort of anchor Thomas could be carrying that a journey upon the water is impossible for him, even with friends waiting at the end of it.

Things fester in the summer night, appearing just long enough to trouble, vanishing before they can be brought out into the open. Despite that they look to fair Fennywolde with hope, one cannot help but feel that our heroes will find no solace among the swaying stalks of that golden idyll.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: I had forgotten most of this chapter as well! Again, it possibly holds off the action for a little bit, but I’m enjoying the chance to enjoy some peace with these characters, because it never lasts long! This chapter also has some important mythology for Jarvis fans well. It’s the first time we hear the name Woodget in connection with Thomas Triton’s past, which is a thing we’ll definitely come back to.

But what I like best is the atmosphere. The good-natured Kempe, the Thames at night in summer, Akkikuyu enjoying the stars. Most of all, I’m drawn to Audrey’s compassion. Modern hero stories often try to give their heroes bravery, strength or smarts, but compassion is something much more rare and I appreciate the way Jarvis uses it.

Final question: is Kempe Irish? I always think of him as being Irish, but that could be my imagination.

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11 thoughts on “The Crystal Prison | Chapter 5

  1. My reaction to reading this chapter as a naive child: “No. I refuse to accept this. Piccadilly can’t be gone. He’s too important. He’s part of this just like the other Deptford Mice are. He’ll be back. Just wait, Audrey will be in danger and he’ll totally swoop in from out of nowhere and save her.”

    And now for my reaction as a man who’s grown sadder and wiser over the years: “Over time, everyone parts ways. Saying goodbye and letting go of the people who are dear to us is just a side of life we all experience. You can’t hide from it. You can’t run away from it.”

    I’m not exaggerating one little bit when I say that Piccadilly’s departure from the story crushed me as a child. I couldn’t believe what I was reading as he prepared to leave the house and the girl he has fallen for behind to return to the city. I was sure that something would happen any moment now. That as he drafted the ill-spelled farewell note, Arthur would get up for a midnight snack, discover what his friend was doing and launch into a pep talk that persuaded Piccadilly not to give up on Audrey. Or that the grey mouse would be slipping through The Grille when Audrey herself ran into the cellar and they would finally make up. Something that would stop this mouse I had grown to care so much about from leaving. It was a slap in the face when that didn’t happen and he did indeed walk away from Audrey, from the house, from Deptford and from the story of The Crystal Prison. To my younger self, that wasn’t supposed to be what happened in a story. I knew that heroes faced danger and suffered but they were meant to be rewarded with a happy ending after all that danger and suffering, not turn and walk sadly away into the night while the one they cared for lay asleep in her bed. This was my first encounter with the inescapable truth all children must someday learn. That life is not a fairy-tale and not even a wise-cracking mouse with a heart of gold can be promised the happy ending he deserves.

    I seem to remember that this is the first time we’re directly told Piccadilly wears his Mouse Brass on his belt like a buckle rather than around his neck. I thought that was soooo cooool. Like the grey mouse was a rebel who had his own way of doing things.

    In this chapter, the author continues to demonstrate his power to make our hearts hurt. We feel Audrey’s pain as familiar characters like Thomas, Oswald, Gwen and Piccadilly and even the setting of the first book are all ripped away from her. Audrey is being forced to leave behind the place she has always called home and the book never lets up as it shows us just how scary leaving home would be for someone as young as our heroine.

    Despite the sorrow of Piccadilly and Audrey going their separate ways as both mice depart from Deptford, there are moments in this chapter which make me smile through the tears. Oswald gloomily saying that his mother won’t let him get up until she’s sure he’s well enough to which Twit replies that he’ll be in bed forever. The mice’s rendezvous with a certain ribald peddler who’s not easily forgotten once you’ve met him. Akkikuyu’s delight upon meeting her mousy friend’s mama and Gwen’s spluttering reaction upon receiving a big soppy hug from the rat woman. The squirrel retainer meeting Kemp’s fury at having been duped into travelling with a rat with insufferable smugness until he realizes that his companion has turned tail and fled, then follows suit. As grim and gritty as these books get, they can be pretty funny at times.

    Could anyone tell me how the name Woodget should be pronounced? I always thought of it as ‘wood-jet’ but I’ve never been sure.

    Way back while we were reading The Dark Portal, I asked the question of whether mice all across the world worshiped The Mouse In The Green in quite the same way as The Skirtings Mice. It took a while but that question finally receives an answer as Mr Kemp talks darkly of how he was run out of Fennywolde by a fanatical Green-Mouser. The religious beliefs of the mice were set up in Book One and they continue to play a part in Book Two as the story explores how other communities practice their faith, bestowing upon the world of mice a depth and maturity you probably didn’t expect to find there. The author respects the intelligence of the reader by tackling such an adult subject which is one of the reasons I’m absolutely convinced The Deptford Mice series would be incredibly popular if more people knew about it.

    Though the circumstances surrounding Audrey’s new role as caretaker for Akkikuyu are profoundly messed up, that moment between them as the mouse maid tells her charge not to dwell upon the past is so sweet. She may not be thrilled about what her life has become but she has a heart and it shines so brightly when the rat woman comes to her, seeking comfort. I know I said this already but I can’t get over how dramatically Audrey and Akkikuyu’s relationship has altered. The mouse has gone from being a naive victim of the rat’s cunning to the one who has to take care of her, be her guide in a world she doesn’t understand. Would you have believed they would be going off to live together in the country when they met for the first time?

    Aaaaaaand Akkikuyu is being haunted by a voice only she can hear. Disembodied voices…I hate disembodied voices…

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  2. …………………I meant to say that even a mouse CANNOT be promised a happy ending. I’m sorry, I really did go over my post with editor goggles but somehow that tiny error slipped by me.

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  3. Hmm, I wonder who the holy mouse that gave those carvings to Kempe’s trading partner could be… 👀

    Haha, anyway… I really liked Gwen and Audrey’s interactions in this chapter. I’m a sucker for good mother/daughter portrayals, and these two are such a great team. It’s also nice to see how good a brother Arthur is, right? He’s so underrated.

    Favourite lines:

    “I’m not fat,” protested Arthur.
    “Course not – you great puddin’.”

    I can just imagine Twit giggling!

    This chapter also gives confirmation that Twit doesn’t mind being called Twit (as he refers to himself as such!)

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  4. Heh, heh, heh. Indeed. Yours is a keen eye for detail, Emmyaclarke. Reading the books again after you’ve made your way through them once is such a rewarding experience. The knowledge you’re now armed with puts so many lines of dialogue and brief moments you didn’t think twice about the first time around into new context.

    Agreed. In The Browns, we have such an engaging portrayal of a family. You honestly feel as though they care for one another which means that the story has real emotional stakes. You want them to survive the horrifying ordeals that threaten to tear them apart. Although he takes Twit’s swipe at his girth in stride, Arthur really seems to have grown immune to being made fun of. He must have been teased a lot while growing up. Hmmm. You know…when you put Arthur, Oswald and Twit together, what you have is quite the gang of misfits who’ve been treated badly by the other young mice. No wonder they hit it off together. Did Audrey have no other friends? I don’t get that impression. Maybe other mouse girls avoided her because she hung out with her brother and Oswald.

    I wonder who gave Twit the cruel nickname he’s come to embrace…

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    • It might not even be so drastic as bad treatment. You know what it’s like when you’re younger. 13-year-olds have no time for 10-year-olds who think 7-year-olds are annoying. Or you like reading books and someone else loved athletics. When you’re a grown-up, it’s no big deal. As a kid, it’s what delineates friends from not-friends.

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      • So true. When you were a kid, everyone had their own groups. And for Audrey, her brother and his two friends are her group. Was it destiny that they hewed together or was it their own choice to become such loyal friends? Only The Green Mouse can say.

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    • Another thing I’ve been wondering, though it may be answered in the almanack, I can’t recall: are Audrey and Arthur twins, or is one of them older? Adds an interesting dynamic either way!

      It would be nice if Audrey were able to befriend another girl. But she seems happy enough to be friends with the boys, and that’s also refreshing in its way. I was friends with a lot of boys when I was younger. Despite liking my dresses pretty and my shoes shiny, I was rather boisterous. I didn’t shy away from rougher games (except sports, which I still hate!) and I like to think Audrey’s got a similar outlook. She makes friends with genuine, nice people that understand her, regardless of gender. (Personally, I think she can be quite judgmental of other girls. But she IS a kid, and it is portrayed rather accurately, so I’ll forgive her!) She’s also quite outspoken and stubborn, which might have set her up for being branded a bit of a misfit herself. She says exactly what she thinks, which can put a lot of people off!

      Maybe one day Audrey will meet her match and find friendship with another gutsy, strong mouse lady! (A girl can dream haha)

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      • Now there’s a question I’ve never mulled over. Audrey and Arthur may indeed be twins. They are both presented with their Brass on the same day although that could simply imply that they were born within the same year. Hmm…I may need to flick through the pages of the almanack. The answer will most likely be in there somewhere. Come on, it contains just about every other morsel of info relevant to The Deptford Mice…

        It sounds to me like you were rather an Audrey in your own right back when you were young! Yeah, I agree with your thoughts on why she befriends the mice she hangs out with. Audrey and Piccadilly were clearly becoming friends before the horrible misunderstanding reared its head and turned her against the grey newcomer for a while. One of my favorite aspects of Audrey’s personality is that she speaks her mind at all times and not even the threat of death can prevent her. She’s like a sassy force of nature and I love it.

        Just imagine if Audrey and Alison became friends! Oh my gosh, they would be unstoppable! Together, they would rule supreme over Fennywolde!

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      • I checked the Almanack and found that, while Audrey was definitely born on the 3rd of January as I mentioned in the post for Chapter 2 of The Dark Portal, Arthur has his birthday on the 2nd of November. I agree that it would’ve been really interesting if they had been twins, however, and I’m almost disappointed that they aren’t now!

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  5. It would indeed have been interesting for Audrey to be Arthur’s twin. I’ll touch upon my reasons for thinking so when we make it to another book. Oh my gosh, I’ve been repeating that phrase a lot lately!

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