The Owl Service is a certified children’s classic! First published in 1967, Alan Garner went on to win the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize with his unsettling tale of a family holiday in a Welsh valley.
“SHE IS HERE, THE LADY. SHE WANTS TO BE FLOWERS, BUT YOU MAKE HER OWLS. ALWAYS IT IS OWLS, ALWAYS WE ARE DESTROYED.”
From the very beginning this story gave me the creeps. I think the thought of hearing something moving around in your attic is a rather universal fear. What Alison, Roger and Gwyn find in the attic is actually fairly bizarre, a dinner service, the plates decorated with floral owls. The discovery of these plates sparks a series of odd events, strange behaviour and an unwavering sinister undertone throughout. The tension which Garner builds constantly finally comes to a head in what I found a rather abrupt, dare I say, unsatisfying ending. This and at times what I found clunky dialogue are my only real criticisms of the book.
The story itself is a modern retelling, or as Garner puts it an “expression of the myth” of the tale of Blodeuwedd. Garner takes this story from Welsh mythology and is able to create something truly unnerving. However The Owl Service is much more than just a retelling. The book touches upon many more themes which is why I believe it is a must read for the young readers of today with discrimination and prejudice being rife throughout. This prejudice takes many forms one being the clear class divide between the working class and the more affluent land and business owners. I think the most striking example of this discrimination is that between the English and the Welsh and those who in some way fall in between.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it from start to finish in one evening. Perhaps some of the dialogue is a little dated, but the power of the story and the themes Garner touches upon are as relevant today as they were when the book was published.
BB Rating: 3.8/5
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