When Pushkin Press is not bringing us wonderful stories in translation, it’s giving re-issues to once-loved English texts that have unaccountably dropped-out of print. This, by idiosyncratic American author and illustrator William Steig, which first appeared forty years ago, is a quirky take on the theme of desert island survival. The castaway is Abel, a rather self-satisfied mouse who lives a life of genteel turn of the twentieth century respectability. Picnicking on champagne and caviar with his adored wife Amanda, they are overtaken by a horrendous storm; and, chasing Amada’s fly away scarf, Abel is swept away down river to land up on an island. To begin with, he is smugly confident of his ability to survive, but, after various attempts to escape have failed, he sets to making himself a shelter and finding food, all the while rather resentful that no one has arrived to rescue him. In text and illustration, Steig follows Abel’s continuing schemes for escape, his thoughts of home and his love for Amanda, and his attempts to fill his time as summer turns to autumn and then to winter. From having led a privileged life, in which he has never done a day’s work, he becomes steadily more resourceful, more aware of the world around him, and, in a life changing moment, turns to sculpture, to give some tangible form to his memories of Amanda and his family. He lives through winter and avoids the attentions of an owl. He makes friends with a frog with whom he converses about the meaning of life. And then, after a year, he makes his escape and, surviving a final hair-raising encounter with a cat, returns home to Amanda a changed mouse. It’s a tale that, like Russell Hoban’s contemporary The Mouse and His Child, uses small animals (and toys) to make an existentialist approach to life meaningful to a younger audience, as we watch Abel grow into self-consciousness facing up to the challenges of survival, buoyed up only by his love for Amanda. But there’s no need for any reader to get out of their philosophical depth. Perhaps best shared between an adult and a child (or perhaps read by a thoughtful teenager), there is enough real jeopardy, emotional insight and dry humour in the tale to keep anyone satisfied.
http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bfklogo.png 0 0 Angie Hill http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bfklogo.png Angie Hill2017-09-05 16:26:152021-06-16 13:28:52Abel’s Island