Tuesday 14 June 2016
Isaac Campion by Janni Howker Catherine Johnson
I was planning to write about something else this month, but you know how it is. I was going through the bookshelves looking for a book I'd thought I'd recognise by it's blue spine (when I found it, it was orange that's why I had to look all over the house for it) when I found my dog eared old copy of Isaac Campion by Janni Howker.
I stopped, flicked through it and an hour or so later got up, scratchy throated from holding back the tears and totally emotionally floored.
What a gem this little book is. Published in 1986 it's written - like True Grit - in the voice of an elderly person relating his childhood. It didn't win the Carnegie but I think it's one of the finest historical novels written for young people I have ever read.
Isaac Campion's story takes place in his childhood, only as far back as the early twentieth century but a complete and other world. A world where children - according to Isaac only invented after the Great War -'are merely a damn nuisance and a mouth to feed until you could do a day's work..'
The world evoked is one of hardscrabble horse dealers, of the cruelty of men and the casual awfulness of death. This short book is, and for once this is not a cliche, coruscating in it's brilliance, it's utter simplicity and it's heat seeking narrative.
Sometimes I forget what a brilliant writer Janni Howker is. I am now going to make sure I read everything by her all over again this summer. I can't think of a better use of anybody's time.
Posted by Catherine Johnson at 07:22