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Okay, sorry - it's a sappy subject-line, but there's talking about Hilary McKay's Forever Rose now only by dint of my staying up too late last night to finish (after having a variety of Creatures Behaving INSANELY episodes playing outside my bedroom window in the middles of a couple of nights before - seriously - foxes? Can sound like the weirdest of supernatural beings), so the talking isn't necessarily going to be pretty.

I loved it. I started off sticking a flag next to a passage I wanted to mark for quoting and then realised I should have marked an earlier one, and ended up with a downright porcupine-like book, and realise now that most of them won't be quotable, for fear of spoilers, and the ones that are quotable won't be as good as the others and I just won't do this thing justice. But there are so many Hilary McKay fans in the world that this one incoherent ramble isn't going to make much difference!

Readers of the other Casson family books might like to know that this book is all from Rose's POV, which - well, it's a trade-off, isn't it? One of the exceptional things about the series is the ease with which the narrative goes from the younger members of the Casson family to Caddy, and even to Eve (the mother, for those who haven't read any). It works wonderfully for books about a family, rather than a character in a family, and I missed it here. But it also works (for those who've read the previous books, obviously) to highlight how badly Rose is missing the other members of her family too. And she's grown - though she's still endearingly impossible in some ways, she's heart-rendingly empathetic and thoughtful in others, and that's just brilliantly done. And David is done amazingly, because he's so moving and yet he's seen through Rose's not-sympathetic (initially) eyes. The scene in which we're shown Eve's and Indigo's reaction to his situation, having shared Rose's pre-conception of that situation, is just amazing. (Phew - hard to say anything without spoiling it.)

It'll probably be fairly obvious from what I've said that this is not all fun and games and gathering nuts and May, which is decidedly true. It's even more poignant than the others in places. But - not a spoiler, unless you don't plan to read the back jacket blurb - stop now if you don't - "In this book there are - Disasters, Catastrophes, Perils Adventures, Friends, Homes and a very definite Happy Ever After..." - the funny level increases a lot towards the end, as things come to a very satisfying, if not entirely unpredictable ending. (The 'unpredictable' isn't a criticism - it's intentional.) I'm a total sucker for happy endings, but it would have felt less satisfying if the characters had been unbelievably slotted into the behaviour needed for the Happy Ever After, which they weren't. For my money anyway. I'm probably too tired to avoid slipping again into slight sappy mode, but these are books which made me feel strongly how much I liked the family, and how much I like Hilary McKay herself, without ever having met her. And to remind me how overwhelmingly glad I am to be a reader.

Finally, behind cut because I've gone on too long already (far too long you say? Sorry!), a couple of quotes, including one about books and life. the cut )

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April 2009

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