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Stories of the past

One of the things about parenthood is how it yields its secrets on a drip, you find yourself doing things you didn’t anticipate, which looking back seem blindingly obvious. It is, of course, now perfectly clear to me that I was ALWAYS going to wind up reading the Narnia books I adored so much as a child to my eldest though it hadn’t occurred to me until he asked about them.

So we’ve been reading them (currently up to Voyage of the Dawn Treader), and he’s been loving it. I’ll confess to less enthusiasm. You’re familiar with Hartley’s line about the past being a foreign country. Well revisiting Narnia has suggested that the past is a fantasy. Read as a child, unencumbered by societal preconceptions, they’re wonderful. Read as an adult and the sensation that you’re being preached at is inescapable, character traits which once seemed absolute and just now leave you feeling the subject has been shabbily treated by the author (poor Eustace, for example, is clearly unhappy, and don’t get me started on his treatment of Susan, clearly a few issues there), the allegories are leaden. I have developed critical faculties, and my past can’t stand up to them.

But this is no reason not to read them, the eldest is getting the same sense of magic and wonder that I got as a similarly firmly moral six year old, I just feel the need to apologise to six year old me. (We’ll gloss over the Famous Five).


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