Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘OUT ON YE! OUT ON YE! OUT ON YE!’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Well, how about that then. Thanks to a bunch of sticks, the Triad become the Dyad, Whitby is rolled right on back to normal, the aufwaders are saved from extinction, and our young heroes get to run into their parent’s arms.
Like all good Robiny endings, this one offers more questions than it answers. Was the Penny Hedge really imbued with divine power, or was it Ben’s gifts which activated it? If there was some form of God possessing Sister Frances, how long had that really been going on for, and what were the extent of that being’s powers in that form? If the Deep Ones cannot die, being unstoppable forces of nature, what happened to the Lord of the Frozen Wastes? And, most importantly, how are Ben and Jennet ever going to live happy and contented lives after everything they have witnessed?
I wish them well as much as the next reader, but Ben was almost gorily murdered on multiple occasions, and Jennet has been through enough trauma to last her a lifetime. Plus, it occurred to me that these children have only just learnt to process their grief over the death of their parents, only to have that selfsame beloved Mama and Papa appear again before their eyes. It’s miraculous and wonderful, yes, but don’t try to tell me that family doesn’t have a lot to work through.
I said last chapter that I’d save my final words about Nathaniel for this post, so here they are: Most. Satisfying. Villain death. Ever. That scraggly old slime found his natural habitat in Rowena’s innards! Good riddance to bad dress-sense!
On the other tentacle, my pangs of sorrow for Aunt Alice are soothed somewhat by the knowledge that this is not the last we shall see of her, nor of old Whitby Bay. Last year, Mr Jarvis decided to ‘go back’ with a certain luridly turquoise offering currently sitting on my shelf, next to its sickly yellow sibling and hot-off-the-press purple cousin. We’ll all be ‘going back’ too, in time.
Matt’s Thoughts: I could go out on a limb and be slightly controversial yet, but I almost feel like this is Mr Jarvis’ most poignant finale so far. I mean, we were all pretty gutted by Audrey and Piccadilly back in the day, but reading about Ben getting his eyes anointed by Nelda before losing his special sight … that was truly heartbreaking.
It’s taken me by surprise just how much I have enjoyed this trilogy this second time around. The characters, Robin’s obvious love for Whitby, the amazing back mythology. It’s potent, potent stuff.
And finally, I can’t resist finishing with a song that’s a bit left-field but bear with me. Last year, I found myself listening to old songs by Harry Secombe (Welsh singer, one of the performers on The Goon Show and Mr Bumble in the movie Oliver!). I think I was just getting nostalgic for the type of music my mum used to listen to when I was three or four.
Anyway, I came across (i.e became obsessed with) this one particularly old-fashioned song called ‘The Lost Chord’. It was actually written by Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) and, believe it or not, was one of the most purchased songs in the 1880s and 1890s. (Of course, in those days, buying a song meant getting the sheet music and taking it home and having a bash yourself on your own piano.)
The song is rather quaint and Victorian and in it the narrator talks about a particular chord of music they accidentally played once on an organ and then couldn’t ever find again. And in the end, the singer hopes that ‘it may be that death’s bright angel shall speak in that chord again’.
This concept of ‘Death’s Bright Angel’ is a fascinating one, given the figure of the cherub that appears throughout this book, making things shine. I’m not saying the song was necessarily in Robin’s head when he wrote this character, but nonetheless I like the idea. Plus, given Miss Boston’s age, ‘The Lost Chord’ would well and truly have been a standard by the time she was a young girl. And I could certainly see many of the old ladies of Whitby owning Harry Secombe records back in the day. So is this an appearance of death that would have meant something to someone of her generation?
So in memory of Alice Boston, the aunt we all wish we had, here’s Harry Secombe singing ‘The Lost Chord’.