Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Woodget,’ he whispered softly, ‘forgive me.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Before we begin I feel beholden to point out that this is the ninth book on the (Re)read, and though it is not yet September as I write, this post will be going live on the ninth month of the year. Here at Myth & Sacrifice I daresay omens and portents are the order of the day, and if the timing of this readthrough isn’t an example of a perfectly divine coincidence, then I honestly don’t know what is.
Anyway, let us slither into the prologue and join Gwen and Thomas for a mousey soap opera the like of which we haven’t seen since the original Deptford trilogy. How gleefully bitter this opening is! It really shows us what Robin means when he says he ‘doesn’t believe in happy endings’. The last time we saw these characters they were being joyfully wed in the Green’s own sunshine, but apparently that blessed light did not, in fact, ‘live in their hearts till the end of their days’, because things look rather stormy in the Triton-Brown household.
So we come back at last to the tale behind Thomas’s near-death ravings in The Final Reckoning, and discover the ill-fated drama which compelled him to leave the peaceful idyll of Betony Bank. For myself I have to wonder where he was coming from in the first place. Who were his parents? What manner of life did he live before he received the Sign of the Travelling Mouse and left home for good? Was Thomas ever really ‘from’ anywhere, or did he float between relatives and guardians without ever knowing his own roots? If nothing else, it’s an intriguing mystery.
Matt’s Thoughts: There’s a sense in which Jarvis fans would happily have parted with cash just for the prologue and Chapter 1, because they’re almost good enough to stand alone.
In the prologue, we almost feel like we’ve been given an extra epilogue for The Deptford Mice trilogy, with a tantalising look at what happened to all our friends (well, at least the surviving ones) in the years after those events of the original trilogy. For most book series, we have to sort of be content for the series to leave things where they end up, so to get a little bit extra is not something to complain about!
Then Chapter 1. I find this to be a little bit of a Jarvis mini-masterpiece. I almost don’t need the rest of the book. We’ve got two friends, one girl – we know straight away that this is another Piccadilly/Twit/Audrey love triangle waiting to happen. A bit of berrybrew, some ill-timed words, and what was a happy country dance evening turns into tragedy.
And not just the mild-mannered type of romantic mix-up which will be fixed in another 90 minutes. (My wife is a rom-com fan so I’ve sat through plenty of those!) No, this is that small turn of events which will trigger tragedy for everyone. We’re pretty sure from The Deptford Mice that it’s not going to end well for Woodget. We already know Thomas has become an alcoholic over this. (In fact, what a delightful sense of dread we get from those words, ‘I swear … as the Green is my witness.’ Never. A. Good. Thing. To. Say.)
Finally, everyone in Betony Bank is left feeling messed up as well: ‘In those after-times, the generosity of the Betony Bankers was diminished and they never again trusted outsiders nor welcomed them into their homes.’
You know, I’m not sure what the name was of the editor or publisher who first read Mr Jarvis’ manuscripts. But I imagine them flicking through things like this and saying, ‘Yep. Tragedy, bleakness, violence, and misery all round. Like Macbeth with mice. Exactly what the kids of the UK need to be reading.’ Whoever that person might be, my blue woolen hat is off to you.