Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Chime Franny Billingsley

Briony is a witch. It's her greatest secret, that and the fact that she's responsible for the head injury that led to her twin sister's mental issues* and the fact that she's the one the injured Stepmother. She didn't kill Stepmother, but she might as well have. She's the one who called up Mucky Face, who caused the river to swell and flood and knock Stepmother down.

Briony has the sight. She can see the spirits and creatures, she follows the Old Ones. The Boggy Mun is killing the town's children with the swamp fever. Her sister, Rose, is sick. The Boggy Mun tells her if she can stop Mr. Claybourne from draining the swamp, he'll make everyone well.

But things are complicated by Eldric, Mr. Claybourne's man-child son, with is mane of hair and easy ways. Things are complicated by Leanna, the new woman in town who captures Eldric's attention. Things are complicated by Cecil who seems to think he already has Briony's heart.

Things are complicated because Briony's a witch and has to take care for Rose.

Bad things first-- I had read a million reviews of this, so I knew going into it that Briony is well, HOLY UNRELIABLE NARRATOR BATMAN. On the other hand, I think I would have figured that bit out rather early on. As it was, I figured out what was happening and the truth of the situation pretty early on.

Also, Briony's ignorance and self-hatred gets really tiring. Not in a boring way, but her narrative voice mentally exhausted me. You know how after reading Junie B. Jones, you need some adult time because it's like talking to a hyper 6-year-old for the entire time you've been reading? Yeah, like that. But not a hyper 6-year-old (I'm not doing a good job explaining this.) I couldn't read it for long stretches of time because Briony just wore me out. Which was too bad because...

I FREAKING LOVE THIS BOOK. Just loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove. I just wanted to take Briony aside and sit her down and be like, GIRL! IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!

I loved the setting of Swampsea. Billingsley makes the haunted creepy swamp and thing of supreme beauty. It's also wonderfully atmospheric. I know the book takes place in high summer, but I wanted to read it on cold, misty, foggy days because they seemed to fit better. Briony hasn't been in the swamp, her beloved swamp for three years because, as Stepmother said, Briony plus the swamp plus the Old Ones led to bad things. But the death of Stepmother and the arrival of Eldric changes everything.

But more than anything, the language and the writing. If Billingsley wrote the manual that came with my paper shredder, I would reread that thing every week.**

Check it out:

The swamp hadn't changed... It was just as I remembered, a foreverness of mud and water, water and mud, and to the west, a blackness of trees.

"Rose left no tracks," said Eldric.

She hadn't, she couldn't. The swamp is too oozy and flowy and drifty to hold an imprint. In April, the swamp smells of winter, but the snow has melted; the season of mud has begun. Beyond the stretches of mud and water lay the end of the world, where the air turned blue.
p 26

How could I have forgotten that the swamp has no beginning? How could I have forgotten that the swamp simply seeps into exsistence? That it bleeds and weeps into existence?

The itch was gone--the itch of my scar, the itch of the swamp craving. How lovely to seep and bleed and weep into the swamp.
p 51

*it's never named, but she seems vaguely severely autistic?

**So, I just searched to see what else she had written. Um... Big Bad Bunny? That's a favorite of mine to read when I visit schools! Doesn't have quite the same dreamy misty lyrical quality but...

Book Provided by... my local library

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