On the Summer House Steps

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Anne Fine
Jun 2006
"Maybe I am the only person in the world who wants to be different from what I am."

Anne Fine�s first two novels for children, �The Summer House Loon� and �The Other Darker Ned� are conflated with a brief bridging interlude under the new title �On the Summerhouse Steps�.

Fine�s narrative style in these first two novels remains as fresh and observant as it must have been on first publication in 1978 and 1979, it is reminiscent of the light-refracting sparkle and the musical tinkles as ice-drifts-against-glass in summer imbibes.

Structured in two parts the novel charts the ways in which Ione, the protagonist changes and develops. The concept of change - whether that be physical, emotional or change of beliefs, remains a central preoccupation in Fine's body of writing. The first part of the novel sees Ione bring together her father, Professor Muffet�s, secretary Caroline and Ned Hump, one of his students with whom Ione forms an instant affinity whilst �on the summerhouse steps�. Ione presents as a slightly younger, less experienced take-on Jane Austen�s �Emma� in this first part of the novel, interested for the most part in the lives and concerns of others rather than fully aware of herself..

The second part sees Ione fall prey to the proverbial fate of the eavesdropper as she hears her father despair as to how his daughter is frittering her life away. Following this and a vision of a boy starving in India, with the help of Ned Hump, Ione sets about raising money for the famished. The development of philanthropic interests contrasts markedly here with Caroline�s self-interest and obsession.

During the re-setting of the novel, Anne Fine has taken the opportunity to edit and bring the books up-to-date. As the first books by an extraordinarily diverse and always socially relevant author, Anne Fine�s �On the Summerhouse Steps� deserves a place on the shelves of everyone interested in the history and development of children�s literature.

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This page contains a single entry by Jacob published on July 11, 2006 12:42 PM.

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