Now, by ‘Bookish Mysteries,’ I’m not talking the type that involve these fellas, here:
or even this lassie, here (much as I love her):
No. I’m talking about books whose plots I can only barely remember, whose titles I’ve forgotten, and which I would love very much to track down – if only I could remember enough about them to have any chance of searching for them successfully.
It’s no secret that I’ve read a lot of books in my years on this planet. I started young, so some of them have (sadly) retreated into the mists of faulty memory; I’ve also always had a vivid imagination, so sometimes I wonder whether the plots I remember are actually of books I read, or something I dreamed up myself. I have form for this kind of thing: for years, I had a recurring memory of an animated film I’d seen which involved a floating city, a girl, and a robot with long arms and one eye which was bigger than the other.
Nobody but me seemed to remember it.
I was told by everyone – my film-crazy brother included – that I was just remembering a dream and confusing it with reality, or plain making stuff up, but I knew, deep down, that I wasn’t. I knew. I struggled to remember, for years, what this film was called, what it had been about, what the little girl’s name was, all that. It was very frustrating. I was essentially being called delusional by everyone I knew, and I was being told to forget about it. And the sad thing was, I almost did.
And then, I went to college. And I met something called ‘the Internet.’
That fine fellow is a model of the giant robot in the 1986 animated movie ‘Castle in the Sky,’ directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Note, if you please, the long arms and the eyes – one of which is bigger than the other.
I can’t even explain the sense of euphoria that washed over me when, finally, I had proof that this movie wasn’t something I’d dreamed up and that my memories of it were real. I’d watched it, I’d loved it, and now I knew what it was called I could track it down. And I did.
It was every bit as magical in my twenties as it had been as a child. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it.
Anyway, the point is: things that are half-remembered from childhood have a strange sort of power. It’s probably a mix of the idealisation of youth and the excitement of coming across a new story for the first time, but whatever it is, it’s potent. When you can just barely remember something – it’s on the tip of your mind, just about hanging on by its fingertips – it’s irritating, and maddening, and intriguing, and strangely exciting.
I know I read a book, many many many years ago, which I remember loving. (We’re talking the nineteen-eighties here, people – the era of big hair and legwarmers and large-framed spectacles and glitter. Halcyon days.) It was, of course, a children’s book, and it featured a little girl living in a house near a circle of standing stones which had an eerie power over the landscape. In the book, there was a drawing of another house, and in one of the windows of the drawing another little girl was living, trapped inside it and desperate to get out.
Now, I may be confusing part of this plot with Penelope Lively’s marvellous ‘The Whispering Knights,’ which features a circle of standing stones (based on the real landmark known as the Rollright Stones, in the United Kingdom):
I know I read this book during the long ago 1980s, too, and I loved it. I haven’t read it in recent years, but as far as I know the plot involves three children who accidentally raise the spirit of Morgan la Fay, witch extraordinaire, who goes on to terrorise their village.
But the detail about the drawing – and the little girl trapped inside it, forever held captive behind an upstairs window – is something which has held an iron grip over my mind for almost thirty years. Does anyone remember a book which features anything even remotely like this? The idea of it, the sheer deep-down bone horror of it, has haunted me all my life, and perhaps it holds this power because I simply can’t remember the name of the book; perhaps if I could, that power, and that intrigue, would dissipate.
But perhaps it has power because it’s a really good idea.
I’ve always suspected the idea was too good, and too strong, to be one of mine. I can’t give myself credit for coming up with it, because I genuinely don’t think I did. However, I’ve never been able to find it with a Google search or using Bookfinder or anything like that. Admittedly, I haven’t tried it in a while, but for some reason it’s on my mind again this morning and I thought I’d throw it out into the wilds of Blogville, and see if anyone could help.
So – can anyone help? Please, put me out of my mystery.*