Judged by Mireille • Find her on Goodreads
The book battle is a weird thing, because it’s hard to appreciate a book on its own merits, knowing you’re supposed to compare it with another one. Ideally, you’d read both at the exact same time, and try to refrain forming an opinion until the end. As it is, I feel like the first book you read often has the edge – it’s true for two out of three times for me, at any rate. And if you like the first book a lot, then every negative thing about the second one just comes out more sharply.
In this case, I loved the first book to pieces. And then… it was a slaughter.
I’m sorry. I know a lot of people love A Ring of Endless Light. And I don’t want to spend 500 words talking about all the things I didn’t like about it. But honestly, apart from one single element (“Vicky called me and I came.”), I didn’t like anything about it. It was incredibly depressing, with an added layer of morality that I didn’t care for. And not just depressing like “being a teenager is hard”, but filled with an unrealistic amount of death and drama. I hated Zachary and couldn’t understand what he was doing in the book, and the fact that Vicky didn’t just throw him to the curb made me like her much less. I didn’t like Leo, either, and was only very meh about Adam. I thought the family setting was good – I liked the house in the stables, and the whole family together with Grandfather – but even that got a little too much (the singing every night? the many discussions about religion?). And the dolphins were lovely. But yeah, I had zero fun reading this and would have stopped a quarter into it if I didn’t feel like I had to keep going for the battle.
And Penderwicks in Spring was so delightful! It made for such a great contrast! I loved every single thing about it! I spent the last third of the book just sobbing my heart out – trying to be quiet as I read in bed besides my sleeping husband – and yet it is such a happy, joyful book, I am amazed. I loved all the Penderwicks, and I loved the feeling of the book – it reminded me of Anne of Green Gables so much that until we read about Skye on her computer I wondered if it was a period piece. All of these numerous people under one roof, and the tight-knit community of neighbours! It was obvious that Stuff had happened in previous books, but I didn’t feel like I was missing some key info by starting with #4 (whereas I suppose Zachary is built up a bit in previous L’Engle books). The ease of jumping into a series isn’t really a quality by itself, I think, but it helped in this case.
I loved the found family, I loved Lydia’s speech patterns, I loved Ben and his rocks and Minnesota. I thought there was so much humor (“How could such a person as Oliver come from a state with so many great rocks?”) and warmth in this, I wanted to wrap the universe around me like a comforting blanket. The characters were great, the relationships felt real – though Skye’s reasons for not being with Jeffrey were the only thing I didn’t like. The parenting in this is wonderful, there’s just so much LOVE everywhere, really! I loved the dogs. I loved how it was a quiet book but it still had “adventures”.
So, maybe third time will be the charm for Endless Light, but for now, The Penderwicks advance easily.