A Green and Ancient Light by Frederic S. Durbin

A Green and Ancient Light

byFrederic S. Durbin

Paperback | June 5, 2018

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A gorgeous fantasy in the spirit of Pan’s Labyrinth “that will appeal to those who loved Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things” (Library Journal, starred review).

Set in a world similar to our own, during a war that parallels World War II, A Green and Ancient Light is the stunning story of a boy who is sent to stay with his grandmother for the summer in a serene fishing village. Their tranquility is shattered by the crash of a bullet-riddled enemy plane, the arrival of grandmother’s friend Mr. Girandole—a man who knows the true story of Cinderella’­s slipper—and the discovery of a riddle in the sacred grove of ruins behind grandmother’s house. In a sumptuous idyllic setting and overshadowed by the threat of war, four unlikely allies learn the values of courage and sacrifice.
Title:A Green and Ancient LightFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:320 pages, 8.25 X 5.5 X 1.1 inShipping dimensions:320 pages, 8.25 X 5.5 X 1.1 inPublished:June 5, 2018Publisher:Saga PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1481442236

ISBN - 13:9781481442237

Appropriate for ages: All ages

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Read from the Book

A Green and Ancient Light I remember the plane hurtling above the village. It left a trail of thick gray smoke, and its engine roared and coughed. Grandmother and I were working in the garden, digging potatoes. We could see the plane was an enemy ?ghter, part of the squadron we’d heard earlier as it growled north, heading up the coast. Now alone, skimming the mountain slopes, the plane dove toward us like a sorrowful, stricken angel. I was on my feet by the time it careened right over our heads. Its shadow made the sun above me blink. Grandmother uttered a reproachful sound, her digging-fork across her knees as she tipped back her hard brown face, shielding her eyes from the glare. She didn’t spring to her feet as I did. Nothing about the war ever made Grandmother dash to the window or pace the ?oor or otherwise put herself out. She didn’t watch caravans, and she pretended not to listen to bulletins on the radio; she clucked her tongue when they interrupted the orchestra broadcasts, though she never actually switched them off. But neither did she stop snapping beans or darning socks. And I never saw anyone draw her into speculation on how things were going for the troops. We could see the enemy insignia on the wings, and a row of bullet holes ran the length of the fuselage. There was an ­explosion; black smoke billowed. The engine sputtered out entirely, and ?ames rolled back over the cockpit. I dashed to the corner of the house to continue watching. With an eerie silence, the plane cleared the orchards and the front street; it missed the ?shing boats in the green harbor, and it missed the rocks. Out where the sea deepened to blue, it smashed into the waves, throwing up a tower of spray. I turned to look at Grandmother. My eyes must have been wide, and I think my mouth was open. My feet were tugging me into the side yard. Grandmother began scratching in the soil again, with a little grunt that meant, “Well, that’s that.” But seeing that my knees wouldn’t bend, my feet wouldn’t be still, she said, “Go on, then. Run down and see.” There was no disapproval in her tone. She was talking to a nine-year-old boy for whom a great many things were intriguing: moths on the screen, moss, the squirming life beneath rotted logs, and planes that fell from the sky. Quite a crowd had gathered on the front street: people on ­bicycles, ?shermen knee-deep in piles of nets, three sisters from the abbey clutching their rosaries and looking paler than usual—and of course children from near and far, wriggling over fences, pounding along the dusty lanes—everyone pointing and talking at once. “It exploded,” someone said. Indeed, a last, thick plume of black smoke hovered over the waves, at the end of the gray swath across the sky. “I thought it was coming right down on the street!” “Rattled the cans on the shelves,” said Mr. B ——, the grocer. He had white hair and black sideburns, which seemed to me the opposite of how most men’s hair turned white. “Woke me up from a nap,” said someone else. “I was sure they were dive-bombing the cannery!” “Don’t like it this close. Don’t like it at all.” “Nothing left of that plane. Went straight to the bottom, I guess.” “He’s a goner. That’s no way to die, theirs or ours.” A woman in a green print dress kept smoothing her hair, as if the wind from the warbird’s passing had left her in hopeless dis­array. Two boys jabbered about how they’d thought the plane would hit the boats. They glanced at me but were more interested in the plane for now; children in the village generally seemed curious about me, but we rarely crossed paths—boys my age kept busy helping their elders on the docks or in the vegetable gardens, and I wasn’t out of the cottage in the evenings when they might have been free. I wasn’t opposed to making friends here, but mostly I missed my two closest friends back home. The wind picked up, scattering the smoke. A little yellow dog ran through the crowd, barking and wagging its curly tail. Climbing over the low stone wall, I stepped out of my battered shoes and padded across the wet sand, right to the water’s edge between piers. At this end of the village, the land sloped down gently to the shore, and there were no cliffs. The sea-smell washed over me, huge and ?shy and humid, with that dank hint of all that it hid, ancient wrecks and monsters that made whales look like minnows. Gulls screeched, riding the wind currents. Beside me, a tiny crab scuttled across a rock, and a raisin box bobbed, its sides puckered and bleached nearly white. Sand oozed between my toes; a wave rolled in, and soon my pant legs were drenched to the knees. I could look right out through the harbor mouth to where the plane had gone down. There was not a sign of it now. Only the waves rose and fell, their edges dazzling in the light. * * * * I won’t tell you my name or that of the village where I spent that spring and summer when I was nine. I won’t because you should realize there were towns just like it and boys just like me all around the sea—and in other countries beyond the mountains, and all over the world. We awoke in our nights to the growl of trucks, the barking of loudspeakers. (I was one of the fortunate, for whom the guns were a rumble in the distance.) The men in our families were soldiers now, regardless of what they’d been before; many were already dead. The women worked in factories, in hospitals, or stayed at home to care for the very young. And then there were those like me: too old to be carried about, too young to work or ?ght. We were sent off to the countryside where no one thought bombs would fall. We came to know our relatives, old people who had known our parents in another time. In my case, it was only for the late spring and summer, while my mother was getting used to a new job and my baby sister was a newborn. (Schooling in those years was haphazard. Sirens interrupted classes. High-school boys went to war, and classrooms became factories where girls sewed. A season later, my elementary school closed entirely for two years.) I might have been of consider­able help to my mother; I was old enough for that. But my father felt strongly that it was time I got to know my grandmother. It is a strange thing to spend your days with a person connected to you only by the link of someone you both hold dear, but the young one they knew is not quite the same as the older one you know. It’s like talking to someone through a hedge. Now and then, you see an outline, the edge of a face between leaves. You can only walk along in search of a gate. On the table beside my bed at Grandmother’s cottage, I kept a framed photo of the four of us: my papa in his Army captain’s uniform, his eyes alight with kindness, one arm around my mama and one hand on my shoulder; my mama, cradling my newborn sister, holding her so that her little face showed, Mama’s face inclined as if she’d only just managed to turn her gaze toward the camera as the shutter opened. And there I was, looking uncomfortable in my school coat and tie, my hair sticking up though my mama had just combed it down. I looked at the picture so much that spring and summer that I knew every shadow in it, every wrinkle of clothing; I could see our faces when I wasn’t looking at it. In the picture, both my parents were smiling as if there were no cares in the world. I loved the letters Mama sent me here, warm and full of the hugs and kisses that embarrassed me in public but that I was glad for in writing. She would give me reports on the castle—Papa and I had built a castle out of wood, complete with turrets and a drawbridge, and I had painted it all; it sat on a table in my room but was too big and delicate to bring here. So, my mother would write to me about the weather over the castle, about the feasts they were having in the great hall. She tried to tell me about the knights and their quests, but she didn’t understand that part very well. It was all right. I was always happy to hear that the King and Queen were well, that no enemies had invaded. I wrote back to her and to my father, though I knew it took longer for mail to reach him. Grandmother didn’t read the letters I wrote or the ones I received. “That’s your business,” she said, which was a new arrangement for me, that I might have “business” apart from that of the grown-ups around me. She taught me once what to say at the post of?ce, showed me the jar where I could ?nd coins for posting letters, and after that, I was on my own. I missed my parents, but I had stopped crying for them in the dark hours. After a few weeks in the village, our city began to feel like a distant dream. I knew it was real, that if I rode the train again, it would be there, and its bricks would become the reality once more, and this village would be the dream. One person, I’d come to understand, was actually many people—people of different ages, people who lived in different surroundings; these people all had the same name and knew something of each other, but they lived entirely separate lives. * * * * It was a wondrous village Grandmother lived in. I was used to straight, level streets, adve

Editorial Reviews

"The same magic flows in its veins as does in those of the classic The Last Unicorn or, more recently, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane...I left a piece of my heart with A Green and Ancient Light."