Weirdstone to Boneland

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan GarnerOne of the first books I was aware of in our house as a young boy was a Puffin paperback edition of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960) by Alan Garner, whose midnight blue cover featured a staring-eyed black-bearded figure clasping a golden cup. It was a fast-paced, atmospheric fantasy featuring a brother and sister (Colin and Susan) caught up in the eternal struggle between good and evil, as personified by Cadellin Silverbrow and the Morrigan and Grimnir. It was my favourite book for years and I read it until it fell to bits, finally buying myself a new copy some years later.

I was thrilled to discover that the author had written a sequel, but when I at last came to read The Moon of Gomrath (1963), I remember feeling a bit baffled – I didn’t quite get it. A lot of adults have a similar reaction to many of Alan Garner’s books, and he himself once told me, when I spoke with him as a librarianship student, that children don’t have the same difficulty with his books. Perhaps I’d just lost that childish intuition. However, I did read some time later that Garner had intended to write a third book about his characters which he didn’t complete –perhaps because he had grown bored of the central figures?

Boneland, by Alan GarnerNow, after a gap of almost 50 years, Boneland, the third book in the series has been published. In the intervening years Garner had branched out in a number of different directions, and produced some astonishing writing, including the book which has been my favourite for the last thirty years, The Stone Book Quartet.

I’m almost afraid to revisit Colin and Susan after all these years – they’re not children any more, and they’ll have moved on, just as I have. But it is an adventure that is waiting to happen.

[Michael]

Could this be the longest-running series of books ever? There are a few other contenders:

Earthsea, by Ursula Le GuinUrsula Le Guin’s Earthsea series was originally a trilogy, with A Wizard of Earthsea published in 1968, The Tombs of Atuan (1971), and The Farthest Shore (1973).  There then came Tehanu: the last book of Earthsea in 1990 and The Other Wind (2001). A mere 33 years from beginning to end of the series, and a mere 44 years since the publication of the first… could there possibly be more?

Dune, by Frank HerbertThe SF / Fantasy genre does seem to be the natural home of the long-running series, with Frank Herbert’s Dune, started in the 1960s and continued, with prequels, sequels and interquels (is that *really* a word?!?) by his son Brian. There’s another fasmily affair in the Dragonriders of Pern, started by Anne McCaffrey in 1968 and now continued by her son Todd, writing alone and with his mother. Just nine years more writing to beat Garner…

The Morland Dynasty, by Cynthia Harrod-EaglesA relative latecomer to the competition is the still-ongoing historical saga series The Morland Dynasty by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, which follows the progress of a family line through British history. The first book came out in 1980, set in the Wars of the Roses. 34 books later she is still going and has got up to the 1920s! She’s got a while to go to catch up with Alan Garner’s 52 years , but we’ll be keeping track… roll on 2032.

[Malcolm]

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3 responses to “Weirdstone to Boneland

  1. If you’re looking for continuous series, with no gaps, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles has got a long way to go before she catches up with Elinor M Brent-Dyer whose 58 volume Chalet School series appeared between 1925 and 1970. Or there’s Frank Richards who wrote about Billy Bunter, in a variety of formats including magazines, novels, comics and tv scripts from 1908 to 1961.
    But surely Westminster Libraries should be celebrating the greatest long-running series of all – Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear books. Paddington made his first appearance in 1958 and is still going strong in 2012!

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  2. Fabulous – I knew someone would be able trump those above! What EBD has in volumes she doesn’t have in years though – a mere 45…

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  3. I really enjoyed Boneland. Read it fast on the train. Years since I read anything as good. I bet you can’t think of any other trilogies where the last book is so different to the other two.

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