Book name: Greenwitch
Author: Susan Cooper
Publisher: Atheneum Press
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Publication Date: 1974
The books you buy in childhood are the ones you'll remember all your life. I can still recall walking into W H Smiths in Romford, Essex and picking up a copy of Greenwitch by Susan Cooper for the princely sum of £1.25.
A bargain when I think back to the hundreds of times I've read this book since.
When Greenwitch begins, it's Easter, eight months since Simon, Jane and Barney Drew found the Grail. The priceless item with its mysterious carvings has now been stolen from the British Museum.
The kids return to Trewissick, Cornwall with Great Uncle Merriman to recover the Grail from the Dark. Merriman brings eleven-year-old Will Stanton, a fellow Old One, along with him for reinforcements.
Unaware of Will's special abilities, the three Drew siblings aren't at all pleased by this extra companion.
All three siblings are soon too engrossed in resisting the growing power of the Dark to bother with Will, and Jane is invited to attend a mysterious local ceremony open only to women and girls. Her connection to Merriman gains her entry to this exclusive group.
The Greenwitch figure is menacing as it stands up on the headland, but it lies at the centre of their quest to recapture the Grail from the Dark.
This is true in a way that Jane cannot yet understand and she must learn to trust Greenwitch if their quest is to have any chance of success.
The local women build the towering images of a woman out of hawthorn, weigh it down with stones and push it over the cliff into the sea.
Everyone gets to make a wish, but most of the local women are thinking only of frivolous requests.
Jane wishes that the sad figure of the Greenwitch could be happy. Her childlike innocence touches the mysterious creation, opening up the next stage in the narrative.
I love all five of 'The Dark is Rising' sequence, but I particularly like Greenwitch for giving Jane a chance to shine when she's sometimes overshadowed a tad by her elder brother Simon.
It's also the first time that we get to see Will and the Drews together, and there is plenty of narrative tension. Simon is determined to retain the dominant position among his siblings we saw in Over Sea, Under Stone.
However, Will’s sudden arrival, his existing relationship with Merriman and his quiet dignity make that impossible. It isn’t long before Jane and Barney have worked out that there is something unusual about their new friend.
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