Review – Over Sea, Under Stone

Posted December 2, 2015 by Nicky in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan CooperOver Sea, Under Stone, Susan Cooper

It’s time for a The Dark is Rising sequence readathon again! If you wish to join, you can do so via this blog. It’s the perfect time of year to reread the books, at least the second one in particular, with the winter solstice coming up. I always try and read them around this time of year!

With that said, here goes my millionth (ish) review of Over Sea, Under Stone. I’ve noted before that it’s basically an Enid Blyton adventure/mystery story, with Arthurian trappings. This time through, I noticed a bit more than that; despite the fact that it is much lighter than the later books in tone, for the most part, there are moments of darkness and fear: the moment on the top of the cliff with the standing stones, Barney captured, Barney in the cave, the last few pages before the epilogue… Because of that link to Arthur, because of the figure of Merriman, the seriousness that we see later in the story is still there. The Dark doesn’t go away safely in the way that the criminals always do at the end of a Famous Five book.

I think it’s partly that which makes the books survive for me — under the concerns of the children, there’s that darkness and fear.

Another thing which gets me is how all the people act like people. Jane and Barney and Simon get scared, they get jealous of each other, they puff themselves up and act important… The adults are indulgent, complacent. And then there’s the poetry of the quiet moments, the moon on the water and the quiet dusty attic and… Yeah. Brilliant writing. Not as compelling as the later books, but even here it’s very fine.

Rating: 4/5

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6 responses to “Review – Over Sea, Under Stone

  1. My 70s Puffin copy is falling apart, even though it’s that long since I first read it, but I must give it a final go soon before it gives up the ghost! I agree, the absolute sense of dread and menace is less prevalent than in the later books (I regret I only managed as far as Greenwitch) but enough that I remember my heart in my mouth for some of the time.

  2. Arbie

    One of the great strengths of these books is the way kids interact within families, by which I mean the petty squabbles, and they way parents deal with that. It’s interesting to note how parents were willing to let their kids wander about unsupervised for hours on end back then, where-as now they insist that they carry tracking devices with them wherever they go and phone them every 30 seconds.

    • thebrightspark

      Yes, definitely! That’s something I was thinking about too. Jane going off to the vicarage and meeting the man from the Dark there… a kid nowadays would never be allowed to do that, and probably wouldn’t even think it! Stranger danger, etc. Mind you, it’s true in that case, but still!

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