Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Fifty Two of the Finest #2
The Fetch of Mardy Watt is one of those almost-perfect books (there was just one tiny thread either loose or else to subtly tied I overlooked the knot) that manages simultaneously to remind me of my favourite books by several other writers. From the moment Mrs Watt's instruction to her daughter to be content with the body God gave her is followed up by her request to find Mrs Watt's own hair dye, it's obvious Charles Butler has a wicked eye for detail and for that oh-so-human talent for believing two or more mutually exclusive philosophies at the same time.
The plot? Cranky and opinionated Mardy Watt is being replaced by a fetch; a replica; and there seems little she can do about it. She seeks help from her nerdish friend Hal (once court jester to her Queen Bee but now promoted to Loyal-and-possibly-only-real Friend) and endures a push/pull, fascination/dislike relationship with new girl Rachel Fludd. (And don't we always feel like that about someone who looks just the way we do, but better?) Rachel's French pun involving Mardy's name and the last Tuesday before Lent is an uncomfortable (for Mardy) echo of her Queen Bee days but though Mardy would like to lose weight she never expected to lose tangibility at the same time.
So; what books come to mind when reading The Fetch of Mardy Watt? There's a soupcon of character redemption, so here be a pinch of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. There's a strong hint of evil hiding in plain sight, comatose people still attached to the real world (just) a shadowy society, a place that cannot easily be reached and realities behind a thin skin of illusion. That might suggest a blend of The Changeover (Margaret Mahy) and various books by the late, great, Diana Wynne Jones. There's a faint touch of Maggie Pearson's Owl Light, perhaps, and even a smidge of Dean's Tam Lin? Then there's the fading from public sight... hello, Lee Harding's Displaced Person. The more I think of it, the more touches come to mind but there's no sense these similarities have come FROM the other books, just that Charles Butler, like Lewis, Dean, Pearson, Jones, Harding and Mahy, has a rich hoard of folklore, a sharp eye for character and the kind of mental delicatessen whose tucked-away street address a renowned cook might keep jealously close...
And that's probably enough adverbs and adjectives for any review. Before I close though, I'll draw your attention to the cover. I think it's perfect.