||[Apr. 2nd, 2017|05:57 pm]
A month ago I admitted that I had managed to read A.P. Herbert's The Water Gypsies without noticing that its basic mode was comedy. So I would like it on the record that I have since read Frances Hardinge's Fly By Night, and it is funny.
It is many other things besides, but it is funny.
It is funny in its use of words, and names in particular: alongside the elegant fantasy names of the city of Mandelion and Lady Tamarind, it contains Eponymous Clent, who wins the support of heroine Mosca by his use of words. She knows how little he is to be trusted: "You tell lies for money," but when he replies "Pray do not confuse the execise of the imagination with mere mendacity. I am a master of the mysteries of words, their meanings and music and mellifluous magic," she is won over. She isn't fooled, but where else will she hear words like 'mendacity' and 'mellifluous'?
More to the point, because this is the thing I so utterly blanked in The Water Gypsies, the way plot developments are announced made me laugh out loud. I hope it won't spoil anything for anyone to say that Chapter 1 (which is, in any case, titled 'A is for Arson') ends with Mosca explaining why she is so keen to get away from the village where she has lived all her life:
"Very soon," Mosca said quietly, "my uncle will wake up. An' when he does... he's likely to notice that I've burned down his mill. Fly By Night was published in 2005, and it got great reviews then. It has taken me a ridiculously long time to read it. This may have been partly due to the title, and the heroine's name, which suggest that it is about houseflies. And it sort of is, but do not be deterred by this. I eventually came to it because I read Frances Hardinge's latest book, The Lie Tree, which is also wonderful, but in a completely different way. It did not in the slightest prepare me for how funny Fly By Night is.