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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘From acorn to oak,’ she intoned gravely, ‘but even the mightiest of oaks shall fall.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This chapter affects me deeply every time I read it. First of all, there’s the breathtakingly elegant sequence in which Thomas dreams of his past. Then there’s the drama of a ‘murder in the park’ which quickly descends into despair when we learn that this is not some kind of thrilling who-dun-it intrigue, but a real and lasting tragedy that has reduced the Starwife (the Starwife!) to a shambling wreck. Then there’s the squirrel funeral, and I have a mushy story about that so brace yourselves.

When I was younger, quite a lot of what I read and absorbed in Mr Jarvis’ books made its way into the plethora of notebooks I collected for fun. (Did any of you guys do this as kids? I know I wasn’t looking to record ideas for future novels or anything as onerous as that, I just liked collecting pretty journals and filling them with wobbly drawings, bits of diary, and the occasional Digimon sticker).

In any case, young me heard the funereal oration which the Starwife gives, consigning her deceased subject’s spirits to the Green, and was so taken with it that I wrote it down, rewinding the cassette over and over to get it all. (In the abridged version I had, the prayer was spoken by Thomas. In hindsight, this suggests a connection between the midshipmouse and his neighbours the squirrels that is not in the original).

A few months later, my mum and I were clearing out my room, and she happened upon the Starwife’s prayer on a stray piece of paper. Since I hadn’t bothered to label it with the book title or anything, she thought I’d written a poem. She told me it was one of the most beautiful things she’d ever read, and when I explained what it was from, she promised to read the Deptford Mice Trilogy as soon as she could. Thank you, Mr Jarvis, for touching my family’s heart with your writing as you have touched mine.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: A couple of quick comments on this chapter:

  • Great to have the midshipmouse back in action, but there’s not much time for enjoyment when something this tragic happens to all the squirrels.
  • I was fascinated by the details of the squirrel funeral. I almost take it for granted that Jarvis has not only given different personalities to his animal characters, but whole different sets of rituals and beliefs about life, death and religion.
  • Also notice that the Starwife refers to ‘the Green’ as well. Presumably, the same Green as the Green Mouse, but what form does that deity take for the squirrels?
  • There is, also, of course, a great deal of foreshadowing for The Deptford Histories books in the form of Triton’s dream and the Starwife’s mention of an ‘uprising’. However, my memory is rusty on the old Histories books, so even I can’t remember how it all goes … clearly, I need this re-read as much as anybody!
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