Thursday 2 August 2012

'Oh, my Daddy, my Daddy!' - Words that move in older fiction

by Addy Farmer

The blog that never ends. More choices of words that move from me and you... 
Behind the tired old words, Tog heard the harsh grate of fear and loved Allanza even more for his stupid bravery, even though the prat had got them into this mess. J.P. Buxton - I Am The Blade
I love this book and I love these words. Here, we arrive just at this point when our hero, Tog realises what lengths his friend will go to for him - even if the action is idiotic.What is bravery if not the act of doing something which scares you witless? And then when you do that something brave for a friend - well then, then it becomes so moving.

Nick Cross talks in a similar vein when he says, 'I find Bod and Scarlett's friendship in Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book incredibly moving. Here's my favourite part: Scarlett said to Bod, 'You're brave. You are the bravest person I know, and you are my friend.'

Candy says, 'In one of my all time favourite books The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean, Sym lost in the South Pole has a confrontation with her imaginary friend (yeah, you gotta read the book) Titus Oates. Titus is trying to get Sym to admit the truth about him.

And Sym says: But I refuse to say. Because I love him, and you'd give anything, wouldn't you? You'd give anything for someone you love not to die alone and in scalding agony? He is everything, everything, everything I ever admired and wanted and couldn't have. He is everything I needed and couldn't find in real life.'

That is wonderful and of course he is friendship.

Jo Wyton says that her favourite moments are the pay-offs, '...the small moments towards the end that you suddenly realise have been carefully threaded through the story right from the very beginning. (The one in Code Name Verity is astonishing.)'

Wish I knew what it was Jo. I suppose I'll have to go and read the book now...

Paula Harrison talks about the ending in Anne of Green Gables, when she finds out that she can stay at Green Gables.Anne says: "Dear old world," she murmured, "you are very lovely and I am glad to be alive in you."

And what about The Railway Children, says Jackie Marchant, when the train pulls in and Bobbie realises who the third person stepping onto the platform is...

'Oh, my Daddy, my Daddy!' 

Sally Poyton reminds us that the pay-off is not always, ' happily ever after here – just life. Ok - my favourite, a book that makes me sob bucket loads... The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly.

The protagonist David has defeated the Crooked Man. Saved his infant brother and escaped the Fairytale world. David grows up and marries a lovely lady who dies along with their baby in childbirth....

"…Those whom you care about – lovers, children – will fall by the wayside, and your love will not be enough to save them."

Brian Gray quotes the last line of To Kill a Mocking Bird, "It ain't right, Attics," said Jem. "No son, it's not right." We walked home.' 

Keren David says of the end of Sally Nicholls' Ways to Live Forever, 'I read it in a cafe and burst into noisy (and embarrassing) tears...couldn't even control myself enough to explain to family what was going on!' 
Sam died quietly in his sleep. He was in no pain. 
Then how about those moments which chime because of your own experience as a grown-up...
I love this from Claire o'Brien because I love the Moomins and I'm a mum too. 

Claire says, 'How about when the Hobgoblin's hat transforms Moomin to be unrecognisable and he is rejected by his friends in Finn Family Moomintroll? Moomin Mama looks deep into his frightened eyes and says that she will always know him whatever happens. Maybe it just gets me as a new mother.'
Ah, me too, Claire.
bad, bad Hobgoblin's hat
Emma George talks about, 'The final chapter of The House at Pooh Corner, when Christopher Robin's about to grow up and move on. I've no recollection of it as a child, but as an adult, find it hard not to read it without crying.'


Yet more of those small poignant moments which reveal so much about character and circunstance:
Jo Franklin says of  Indigo Blue by Cathy Cassidy. 

'The bit when Mum leaves the girls on their own to go on a date with her abusive ex and then the electric meter runs out leaving them cold, alone in the dark. Couldn't continue reading aloud. Totally gut wrenching.'

Dawn Finch talks about a bit in Morpurgo's Private Peaceful that gets her every time....but she doesn't reveal what it is. Is it this bit, Dawn?

“Being his real brother I could feel I live in his shadows, but I never have and I do not now. I live in his glow.”

Or this bit?

"They've gone now, and I'm alone at last. I have the whole night ahead of me, and I won't waste a single moment of it . . . I want tonight to be long, as long as my life . . ."
I know they both get me. 

Linda Newbery gives us Black Beauty, when Beauty sees a dead horse on a cart. "I believe it was Ginger; I hoped it was, for then her troubles would be over."

Candy has a moment in Moon Pie by Simon Mason.'It's about a Martha who runs the family home because Dad is slowly succumbing to alcoholism. Whenever everything is getting too much, Martha says: "What should I do about Dad? ... I must keep my head and think. After all ... I am eleven." Gets me every time!' 

Jeannie Waudby says of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 'Iin the final fight scene when Harry is walking to his death under the invisibility cloak. He sees Ginny comforting an injured girl who says: 'I don't want to fight any more. I want to go home.' (or something like that). I always wondered why they left it out of the film, because for me it showed how it was children who took on this evil power.

'I think there's definitely an aspect where a subconscious theme is pulled into the foreground, an "oh yeah" moment of realisation that has a powerful emotional effect on the reader. Nick Cross

Candy asks, 'Are authors allowed to feel moved by their own books?' (yes, I will allow it, it's your blog as well - Addy) Because I have a favourite lump in throat moment from Tall Story myself - it's the bit where Andi is finally getting to know her brother Bernardo and she says: "... the truth is, even though I didn't know him, I have missed him just as much as he has missed me." God, I really felt that line when I wrote it. I was thinking of all my nieces and nephews growing up far far away in the Philippines. Every time I went home for a visit they changed beyond recognition. For entire chunks of their lives, I wasn't there. Going home is a bit like time travel, it's life in fast forward because you miss out on vast stretches!'

To which I add my own book for young readers, Grandad's Bench which was written in a blur of love and sadness for my own grandfather. "For a moment Jake could not see properly. Tears trickled down his face. The workshop was full of tools and wood but there was no Grandad. It all felt empty."

Be not afraid to be moved by your own words

Where does all this emotion spring from? Deep wells, still waters, it's in us all. Some let it run, some dam it up and some make stories out of it. Reader or writer, we all feel it.  
I'll finish with  Soonchild by Russell Hoban: "Everything lives in everybody, deep down and way, way back where there are no words. Breath and sounds but no words. Where the strangeness is. If you can get your brain out of the way your mind will take you there."
 With thanks to all who were moved to write


  1. Thanks, Addy. And that's more books to add to an already impossibly long list! My favourite is still the last line in 'Little Boy Lost' by Marghanita Laski, but I can't say it here as it would give the story away. It has me blubbing every time. I even stole the name of that character for one of my own stories as an homage to the book but it didn't get picked up. (Still might try again with another story some time.)

    1. Aw - thanks, Clare. I will have to read it!

  2. This post began with a conversation between Addy and me about a moment in Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce that takes you emotionally by surprise. Addy said, I can do a post on that! And she did - in the most inclusive way! Thanks, Addy! Notes from the Slushpile really feels like a lovely community with this post! Such a blubworthy list!

    ... er but what happened to Millions?

    1. I've lost Millions! I love Millions! Shame but now an excuse for a future blog for all those lost words.

  3. Re Grandfather's Bench - was this the grandfather married to fighter pilot gran?

    1. Ha! No! This grandfather was more Private Peaceful!

  4. Made me cry - a lot.
    I can't read The Selfish Giant (Oscar Wilde) or the moment in The Children of Green Knowe ( L.M.Boston) where Tolly & his great grandmother hear 'Lully lullay' on Christmas Eve " and four hundred years ago, a baby went to sleep."
    Thanks hive mind.

    1. Oh, that's lovely, I'd forgotten Green KNowe - there is soooooo much beautiful writing.

  5. Ridiculous to blub just at these tiny fragments, isn't it? But lovely too. Beautiful selection, Addy. I just finished A MONSTER CALLS and was beside myself with grief and wonder. "I don't want you to go." *lays head on table and sobs self stupid*

  6. I have two book moments. The first has taken a bit of finding, it's Mrs Weasley. She's trying to get rid of a boggart from a wardrobe but it keeps turning into her dead children - 'I see them d-d-dead all the time!' Mrs Weasley moaned into his shoulder. 'All the time! I d-d-dream about it.' It was a great way to show the seriousness of the fight against evil has real consequences.
    The other is from Dave Cousin's 15 Days Without a Head. Young Danny is trying to keep his family together in the face of his Mum's alcoholism, he's going to great lengths to attempt to win a holiday because - 'If there's anything that is going to cheer Mum up enough to stop her drinking it's a two week, all expenses paid holiday in the sun.' I just wanted to hug him.

  7. Wow, what a superb piece! The CNV pay-off is one of the greatest lines I've ever read. Hope you read and enjoy it!


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