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The Far-Enough Window
(or The Reclaiming of Fairyland)

by John Grant, 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 cover scannonetheless 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 all ages".

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 itself.

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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