Kept in the Dark
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On our cover this month we feature an illustration from The Swineherd, a picture book version of the Andersen fairy tale by artist Lisbeth Zwerger. (Neugebauer Press, 0 907234 127, £3.95 from A. and C. Black). We are grateful to A. and C. Black for help in using this illustration. The roundel used on the Hans Andersen pages is from the wood engraving by Gwen Raverat for Four Tales, translated by R. P. Keigwin, C.U.P. (1935). It and the Punch cartoon on page 16 appear in Brian Alderson's pamphlet Hans Christian Andersen and his Eventyr in England.
Three children whose parents are actors, one 'resting' and the other on the verge of a nervous breakdown, are sent to live in a rambling, rapidly decaying house owned by their unfamiliar grandparents. Sinister family skeletons lurk all around influencing most strongly the relationships that develop between grandparents, grandchildren and a hitherto unknown cousin, David, whose personality seems molded by loneliness, the desire to belong and the need to dominate. Somehow a good idea seems to fail here and the story falters and fades to a rushed and compromised ending. The atmosphere of menace and 'all is not as it should be' is splendidly realised at the onset and takes the reader into the book at a lively pace, but then one is left feeling that it was all something about nothing anyway --- a great pity. Ask the kids what they think.