Reading: An Entry into Other Worlds

I bumped into a friend and his 12-year-old daughter at a market recently. The young girl, whose pen name is Tamika, enthusiastically told me about a book she’d been reading, Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Treese. Words like ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘Queen Elizabeth’, and Tamika’s excited description whet my own appetite for what sounded like an historical fiction book for children.

Using history as a base for children’s fiction is a wonderful idea. After borrowing Cue for Treason from my local library and reading it for myself I read another children’s book in the same genre, The Explorer by Katherine Rundell. The Explorer is a story about four children whose aeroplane crash lands in the Amazon jungle. There they meet an Explorer who – though unnamed throughout – is reminiscent of Percy Fawcett, the real-life adventurer who went missing without trace while searching for the Lost City of Z (see my previous review https://wp.me/p4c1s1-nS). All the children are transformed by the experience and at least two of them grow up to be explorers themselves!

Like my young friend Tamika, Rundell is enthusiastic about her genre and about reading. Copious historical research as well as a visit to the Amazon made up Rundell’s groundwork for The Explorer. But so too did books Rundell read as a child, books that caused her to be ‘in love with the world of a book’. (Read an interview with Katherine Rundell here https://bit.ly/2vVaEAp). As a writer herself Rundell is wonderfully descriptive. And, like the books she read as a child, Rundell has likewise created in The Explorer a book that easily transports the reader to another realm.

Descriptiveness – or lack thereof – was Tamika’s one criticism of Cue for Treason, a book she otherwise loved. Read Tamika’s review of Cue for Treason here:

‘The main characters in this book are Kit, Shakespeare, Sir Joseph and last, but certainly not least… Peter.

‘Pete or Peter is accused of a crime, a crime he did indeed do and all the people in his small town know it. The 14-year-old has to escape from home with a few of his family’s pennies and bread and cheese. He has to survive on the road where he meets Kit and then Shakespeare. Kit and Peter learn that the queen will be killed. When Pete becomes an actor and Kit’s friend, they go on their way to warn the good Queen Bess about her murder. Will Pete be kidnapped with all the things he knows? Will Kit have to travel alone? So many secrets, so many lies. Who is a friend, who is a foe?

‘I think this book could have used more description of the characters but I guess everyone can make up their own characters. I mean I’d like to know what Kit looked like. I did love the vigorous verbs. It was a wonderful book and we read it every night. We couldn’t put it down! 70%’.

Tamika, thank you for sharing your review and for your passionate recommendation!

 

 

 

 

The Lost City of Z Meanders

The Lost City of Z opens at cinemas in South Africa on 11 August 2017. This true-life drama details the life of British adventurer Percy Fawcett. Fawcett who worked for the British military and was a member of the Royal Geographic Society. He was sent to South America to draw up maps of the area and in the process became obsessed with finding out more about the region.

Fawcett did several trips to the Amazon (although the film shows only three) between 1906 and 1925, travelling each time with what appeared to be a very small crew, the last with his own son, Jack. Fawcett found evidence of what he believed to be an ancient civilization and its city (the City of Z). He exerted much energy trying to find it and in convincing the British of its existence. There was resistance from the latter, partly because it would mean them reassessing their belief in their own superiority.

The credits at the end of the film state that archaeological remains an unknown civilization have recently been found, seeming to back up the Fawcett story.

Fawcett is played by Charlie Hunnam (a less hunky version of the part he played in King Arthur) and his wife Nina by Sienna Miller. Miller’s character is developed and realistic and contrasts to some extent with those of Fawcett’s team mates and colleagues. The latter remain undeveloped and distant so that the viewer will find it hard to care about them. The film attempts to condense several decades into two hours and 20 minutes and doesn’t feature much of a climax. The result is a far too long, meandering story with little character advancement.

Fawcett is shown as a man ahead of his time, one who goes against the established view of women and ‘the other’ as less than the British White male. I felt this was added on for a modern audience. The website www.historyvshollywood.com has a similar view.

The Lost City of Z opens at cinemas in South Africa on 11 August 2017.