The Far-Enough Window
(or The Reclaiming of Fairyland)
, with eight interior illustrations
by Ron Tiner
(BeWrite, 289 pages, trade paperback,
£9.80/$15.33; October 2002.)
John Grant's The Far-Enough Window is a thoroughly original
and adult work that nonetheless
slots neatly into a tradition of children's fantasy tales beginning
with Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan and continuing
through The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe all the way to Harry
Potter and the Amber Spyglass. In this instance, however, rather
than write a children's fantasy that could be read enjoyably as an adult
work, Grant has written an adult work draped in the traditional tropes
of children's fiction. As he says, this is a novel for "grown-ups of
This time out of the gate, our obligatory child protagonist is Joanna
-- a young girl who is something of a late-bloomer, living in an enormous
house and raised by her housekeeper, Mrs Ruggeley. Her father is of
the absentee variety, and, as we later learn, has actually instructed
that Joanna be shielded from the influences of the outside world. Therefore,
her universe is restricted to the enormous old house; her only companions
being Mrs. Ruggeley, the gardener Mudgett, and her pet, Mr Dogg. But,
when she discovers something amiss in her private diary, Joanna investigates
a disused portion of the family estate, and it is there that she finds
her way out of her small world and into Fairyland.
Here, the traditional wardrobe or magic mirror becomes a distorted
attic window, which, when viewed through correctly, displays a vista
of another realm. Only in this instance, as we are told in what can
be taken as a metaphor for reading itself, seeing "far-enough" is equivalent
to actually being there.
Aided by the company of infamous trickster Robin Goodfellow, Joanna
meets several of the Finefolk of the realm. She quickly learns that
they are being overrun by their darker opposites, the mysterious Comelatelies.
Setting out with Robin and Mr Dogg to put things right, Joanna starts
to suspect that there is more going on than a simple invasion and that
the relationship between Finefolk and Comelatelie is more complex than
she was at first led to believe. If Joanna is to save Fairyland, then
she must unravel this secret, which strikes at the heart of fantasy
The Far-Enough Window is very mindful of the tradition it belongs
to -- with characters like Robin Goodfellow and King Oberon taking centre
stage, and quotes from J.M. Barrie and George MacDonald and their ilk
peppered throughout. By invoking historical characters and literary
precedents, Grant sets up the assumption that his Fairyland is the platonic
ideal that all the other works have visited, the "real" other-dimensional
world behind the tales. Changes wrought in the landscape of his
Fairyland, in fact, explain the shift in tenor of fantasy fiction observed
in our own world across the genre's history.
The novel grows in sophistication in pace with its protagonist, emerging
at its close as something subtle and complex and thoroughly engrossing.
After all, who better to take us on a tour of Fairyland than the co-editor
of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy himself? For his part, Ron Tiner's
illustrations are superbly executed, invoking the feel of the original
illustrations in works like The House at Pooh Corner and Jabberwocky,
while richly capturing the character and personality of the subjects.
In short, The Far-Enough Window is a wonderful book for those
who want a literature on an adult level that nonetheless hearkens back
to their childhood favourites. With Grant and Tiner as guides, seeing
"far-enough" really is equivalent to being there.
Review by Lou Anders.
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