Warning: Contains Spoilers!
For one small fieldmouse the best week of his life was about to commence – one charged with magic, adventure, and difficult choices.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Thanks to Matt’s schedule, it has turned out that I’m blogging through this book in high summer – and in a heatwave. I can’t help but feel like a little Fennywolde mouse as I write this, lying in the grass with the coos of wood pigeons and the distant baah-ing of sheep as a soundtrack. It’s on a cloudless, scorching day like this that I imagine Young Whortle dashing over the stones of the ditch, late to hear about the Fennywolde Games, with no idea of the horrors that await him.
Whortle’s Hope is tonally really peculiar. On one hand, it’s a sunny romp through golden wheatfields with mild threats and mild thrills; a perfect holiday read for ages seven and up. On the other, it’s very solidly a prequel, with a tertiary character from the original Deptford Mice Trilogy as the hero and all major conflicts arising from already-established Deptford world villains.
There’s a strong melancholic, nostalgic element to it – both for Deptford adventures gone and past, and for the halcyon days of childhood in the sun. For Whortle, this will, tragically, indeed be ‘the best week of his life’. As I said with Fleabee, don’t be fooled by the cutesy cover and twee premise. No matter how pretty the setting, we’re still in Deptford, with all the danger and doom that implies.
Matt’s Thoughts: Whortle’s Hope is unique in my own Robin Jarvis collection in that I never managed to get a brand new version of this in bookshops. Clearly, I was at the height of not having time to read Robin Jarvis books and I also was under the (mistaken) assumption that if you don’t feel like buying a book today, you can always go and buy it another day.
I now know some books go out of print!
Anyway, thankfully, the internet is helpful for this, so the copy I own is an ex-library version from the Worcestershire County Council library system. It’s great, it still has the old school date stamp card on the inside cover – you know, the one where the librarian used to stamp the dates with a rubber stamp? So it look like it was borrowed quite heavily between 2008 and 2011 and then obviously they put it up on the second-hand market. For some reason, for this Aussie, having a book marked as being ex-Worcestershire County Council just adds to the Englishness of the whole thing.
But on to the book itself! There’s a strangeness about this opening – if you had read no other Jarvis books, and just picked this book up and read the back cover, you would think it’s a somewhat light-hearted tale about a mouse who wants to win his local sports contest. And apart from the mention of Fenlyn Purfote in the opening couple of pages, there is nothing to disabuse the reader of this notion.
But we know that the war that Fenlyn was involved in was the savage battle with the Hobbers. We know that Twit is going to play a large and momentous part in the takedown of Jupiter. And we know that Young Whortle is going to be dead by the end of summer.
There’s something spectacularly morbid about the whole thing.