Tag Archives: Redwall

Ode to Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking

Way out at the end of a tiny little town was an old overgrown garden, and in the garden was an old house, and in the house lived Pippi Longstocking. She was nine years old, and she lived there all alone. She had no mother and no father, and that was of course very nice because there was no one to tell her to go to bed just when she was having the most fun, and no one who could make her take cod liver oil when she much preferred caramel candy.

Pippi Longstocking. A forever classic and a book that, along with Brian Jacques’ Redwall and Roald Dahl’s Matilda, encapsulates childhood for me, and even thousands of others. The rollicking, carefree, care-filled, complex elasticity of childhood where there aren’t any lines or boundaries, where everything is immensely fluid, adventure lasts forever, umbrellas, apples, rain, chocolate, Caribbean islands, forgotten gardens, and old cupboards are equally magical and the most ordinary thing can turn into pure gold. Pippi is purest adventure in its purest form, in the same way Redwall is warmth, Matilda is cleverness, and The Secret Garden is magic.

Unstoppable, redheaded Pippi Longstocking lives alone in a tiny town, eats whatever she likes without ever getting a stomachache, and teams up with the children next door to go on wild adventures that include pirates and islands and everything a child, or adult’s heart, could dream. Own this book my loves. Go buy it on Amazon for 6 bucks (edition pictured above because this girl did). And if you haven’t read it yet, buy it, read on a long winter day after another day of office work, or on a slow humid summer day when the island seems to fall out of the pages of the book into your lap. Read, and love.

5 Favorite Gothic Authors

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1. Daphne du Maurier. Of course I must start off with the queen herself, the original. Daphne du Maurier is the author of Rebecca, a 20th-century classic and the possessor of one of the more famous opening lines in literary history. Rebecca is a spooky, gothic romance, but mostly it’s just darn addicting – the story will grab you as if you’re a 10-year-old reading Redwall or an Alistair MacLean novel for the first time, and rush you along its irresistible current. If you like Jane Eyre or its lesser-known cousin, Villette, this will be exactly up your alley.

The narrator is never given a name, but she’s a young bride to Maxim de Winter, the charismatic but slightly mysterious owner of a Cornish estate. He’s a forceful personality ala Rochester, proposing by saying “I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.” When the narrator moves in, however, she finds a home haunted by the memory of his first wife, Rebecca, who was killed in a sailing accident. Du Maurier herself always said she didn’t mean this book to be a romance, but I’ve always read and loved it as such: it’s about two people who overcome darkness to stay together. It’s heady and giddy and gripping and rather lovely. It’s never been out of print and is the standard-bearer for Gothic romance.

The opening lines resonate. “Last night I dreamt I went to at Manderley again…”

2. Mary Stewart. I went through a period in high school where I was obsessed with Stewart books – they’re such a deft, gripping blend of complex characters, suspense, and romance. She was one of the most widely read fiction writers of the 20th century, and passed away recently in May of 2014. A British novelist, she wrote both romantic suspense and historical novels and was respected for both. By far and away my favorite of her books, and a good introduction, is Nine Coaches Waiting, which yes, I admit, bears some resemblance to Jane Eyre as well (can I help it that all these Gothic romance writers are tripping on the same thing?).

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