Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Lady and the Unicorn

This book follows Tracy Chevalier’s usual structure of taking the creation of an art work as her imaginative starting point. I love the unicorn tapestries, and every few pages I found myself turning to the reproductions at the ends of the books to look at a detail or just enjoy the sequence. Chevalier has a gift for making a scene come alive through evoking a sense: the feeling of a garden under one’s fingers; the smell of cloves for curing toothache.

Of course, the unicorn stories are all about the seduction and capturing of a wild beast, and the thread of seduction, forbidden or welcomed, runs through the book. There was too much detail for my taste – some passages were squelchier than necessary. And lust was made to be too much of a (blinding) motivating force… but this all connected with the seduction and taming of the characters in the book, so I understand why Chevalier did it.

I prefer books where the characters are motivated by saving their honour or their country or staying alive or solving some practical problem – characters who are concerned with acting in a morally right way, and wrestle with achieving that. Good children's books do this because obviously sex is not a motivating force, and sex is actually pretty boring as a plot device (what does it achieve, beyond titillation?)

No comments: