Thursday, July 3, 2008

With Charity Comes Responsibility (Books - The Changeling by Robin Jenkins)

The Changeling ends up being a potent story - well written, tough-minded, and compassionate. Jenkins never loses the humorous voice that I wrote about in my initial reactions, but he throws a couple of twists into the plot that quite surprised me. When Charlie Forbes takes on Tom Curdie, a boy from the slums, bringing him along on the family vacation, he he little imagines how it will change everyone involved, so naive is what he would call his charity.

'You've got to give us a chance, Tom. What I mean is, you keep apart from us, you never seem to let us know what you're thinking.' He had deliberately used Gillian's words. 'What Gillian said today at the castle was nonsense. You didn't enjoy killing that rabbit, but did you have any pity for it? No, you kept apart even then. And I haven't heard you laughing yet. You must let your heart thaw, Tom, if we're going to be able to help you.'

In the darkness he could not see that the boy was trembling and biting his lips. If it had been daylight and he could have seen those signs of physical distress, he would not have known what caused them.

Tom knew very well, perhaps better than Forbes himself, what was meant by letting his heart thaw, because it was beginning to thaw, against his wish, threatening his whole carefully built-up system of self-sufficiency. He had, for instance, enjoyed being out in the lonely boat in the dark sea more than anything else in his life; and Forbes, whom he had intended to despise and cheat, he now found himself liking, more than liking, yearning for, so that he could scarcely bear the teacher to be out of his sight. But there was the girl, Gillian, who hated him; there was Mrs. Forbes, who thought that in some way he was doing harm to her children; and there was Mrs Storrocks, who had been insulted because the coachman had taken him for one of the family.

All the time, too, he had to remember that he would have to go back to Donaldson's Court, and if he went back with his heart thawed by too much love for these people, and wish his independence therefore destroyed by them, he would become as lost as Peerie or Chick or his brother Alec.

It is impossible to relate any more specifics of the plot without destroying your pleasure in its unfolding in the reading. The Changeling is narrated in an amusing voice but is far from light in the way it takes on the notions of charity, pity, and responsibility for others. The poor haven't cornered the market on dishonesty and more than the rich have, this book says - both lie, both can be judgmental, both can manipulate, and both try to protect those they love. Thank you, Dovegreyreader, for this great recommendation - I pass it on.


Anonymous said...

So glad you enjoyed this one bookeywookey,so much in this book to debate but the way it exposed charitable motives was fascinating and all the lessons learnt by those involved equally interesting.

Ted said...

Dovegrey - Jenkins was entirely new to me, I am so glad to have learned of him from you.