The Attic Term : Antonia Forest

The Attic Term (The Marlows, #9)The Attic Term by Antonia Forest

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The penultimate in her series featuring the Marlow family, Attic Term is split mainly between Ginty and Lawrie / Nicola. They’re back at school. The twins are planning their form entertainment and Ginty is telephoning A BOY in those moments when people think she’s in the bathroom, the corridor, running an errand and, what’s worse, is that she’s phoning THAT THERE BOY from the secretary’s office.

This is a bit of an odd book to review for me as I’ve never been able to read this series in depth or sequentially. I adored Autumn Term, I had a bit of a baffled moment during that one Marlow book where (I think Nicola maybe?) got eyed up by a Dodgy Man With Obvious Ill Intentions, and that one with the sailing boat to France (?) was kind of epic but really confusing because I’d just read Autumn Term and then there’s several of the other titles I’ve never read. My Marlow knowledge is, at best, patchy.

What I can say with some clarity is that The Attic Term is a beautifully written book. Forest, despite the occasional stentorian mention of DRUGS, writes with a very sharp clarity. She’s quite superb in writing girls; girls who are bordering on adulthood or others who are just revelling in their younger sister status. Forest also is superb in writing girls and their interactions in that curious feudal system known as the boarding school. The moments when the girls are discussing something are a joy to read; the language is snappy, bright, and flows just as quick conversation does. It’s visceral writing that’s almost underwritten in a way; she makes her point, just, barely, and allows the words to make the impact rather than surrounding them with a host of speech tags, adjectives and window dressing. This is the sort of thing that keeps bringing me back to Forest, that kind of curiously mature skill to her writing which lets me pass up her DRUGS YOBS OMG moments because I’m so keen to see what she does next.

I find Forest an education in writing and I think, it’s particularly acute, when we see the notes of growth in the family throughout the series. Even I, with my patchy knowledge of the Marlow family, can see it and I sort of love the relationships throughout. (And one of the things I really love is the way everybody’s always “OH ANNE GET A GRIP”)

There’s a lot of churchiness in this book and it’s something I feel frankly unable to comment on with any veracity. What I did find myself doing was something I do when Brent-Dyer gets her church on, I sort of slide past it. There’s a lot I can forgive / disregard when a writer is this damn good.

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Antonia Forest : Livejournal

I do enjoy having a rummage around the internet. Look at yonder fab Antonia Forest Fans livejournal site thingy:-  I am pretty much in love with this because, at time of writing, the last post is this which is all sorts of awesome:- “I just bought a copy of The Player’s Boy – why is the apostrophe not after the s? Or is Nicholas somehow the Boy of one Player rather than of the company?”

Amazing x a million.

There’s more to children’s literature than sparkling in the sunlight

Vampires, vampires and more vampires. Am I the only one sick of this? There are only so many spins you can put on it until you’re just spinning in a pile of undead dusty detritus.

So what else is out there?

Grace Dent. Thank God for Grace Dent. Funny, sharp and not at all patronising. She’s got a lovely way of empathising without getting “adult”. The latest Diary of a Snob is due out on 2nd September. I’m currently halfway through the first Diary of a Snob and loving it.

The Gossip Girl series has crossed over to books very successfully, spawning spin-offs and pretenders such as The Clique and The Beautiful Dead (the latter reading like a GG / Twilight cross that practically has sexy young tv series written all over it)

There’s the awesome Mary Hooper producing a standard of books that makes me frankly envious. Her latest (June 2010) Fallen Grace is a masterpiece of quiet elegant power. She’s also got the skill of cramming her books full of historical detail but never overwhleming the reader.

Keren David is perhaps less well known but that’s no comment on the quality of her books. Debut novel When I was Joe came out in January this year (the sequel is due in September). When I was Joe is a crackingly astute and quick read – the fact that a vast amount of the Amazon reviews are from kids speaks volumes.

I know it’s been out since 2007 but The Plain Janes is one of those stories that I keep returning too. It’s from the sadly missed and shortly lived Minx run of graphic novels from DC. The language in this book is the thing that keeps pulling me back as is the sharp social commentary – delivered with a delicacy that makes me envious.

Perhaps as a result of Twilight’s massive success, there’s an influx of Angel related novels hitting the shelves. L A Weatherley’s imaginatively titled Angel arrives 1/10/10. There’s been a lot of Twitter buzz on this one – whether that’s from a proactive publishing department or genuine heat is unclear. I’ll hold my judgement until I get to read it.

Eva Ibbotson is one of the most simply effortless writers I know. She’s got the ability to just create convincing love stories and characters that make you root for them – regardless of their foibles. One of her older titles (2007) The Morning Gift is a gorgeous tale of romance that keeps pulling me back. Ibbotson produces stories that defy the sometimes limiting label of ‘children’s literature’.

And then, for next time, I have to mention the emotionally brilliant writing of  Michael Morpurgo, and I can’t forget the epic nature of KM Peyton and the gorgeous Pennington, and what about Antonia Forest and the deeply lovable Marlows and then there’s Robert Muchamore and the CHERUBS and shouldn’t the brilliantly real Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins fit in here somewhere?