I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence–and it is mainly down to frustration. I have a long list of poetry excerpts by people such as T.S. Eliot, Walter de la Mare, Christina Rossetti, W.H. Auden, etc, and they were excerpts I copied down from an old library book, aged twelve or so. I neglected to note down the title, the author, or anything else specific about this novel. Thus, when I went to find the book in the library and it was no longer there, I realised I couldn’t remember the title/author for the life of me.
Which brings me to this blog post. Perhaps if I can describe what I can remember, one of you crazy clever folks out there might know the thing I’m on about.
It was a children’s/young adult fantasy fiction. The cover may have been green and silver. Poetry was quoted before the start of each chapter, e.g.:
“I could come here and concrete the dark” – Anon.
“‘Oh where are you going?’ said reader to rider,
‘That valley is fatal where furnaces burn,
Yonder’s the midden whose odours will madden,
That gap is the grave where the tall return.'”
The story borrowed from Greek mythology, I think, in the sense that somewhere inside its pages it claimed that sleep was the brother of death. There were three brothers in the story who were banished from another world – not because they were evil, but because one of them fell in love with a human woman and had a daughter. The brothers might have been lords of sleep, death and dream, but my memory is nebulous. It is told in the third person, mostly from the girl’s point of view, about how she lives with her father (no mother?) and they meet up with her two uncles at a funeral for somebody in a big house in the countryside. She meets her cousin, a boy, for the first time. She is shy, and has a kind of crush on him (ergh) and won’t talk much, hiding behind her long hair. I remember her thinking she could watch him through her hair without him seeing her or something.
They find out their uncles/fathers were the three lords of this other world we go to when we die/dream, and that the two of them are their successors and should be able to visit that world to see their grandmother. Anyway, a doorway opens up to the other world at a certain time, and the other world is constantly changing depending on every random thought you have in your mind, which is why it is dangerous. Their grandmother rules it and she’s like a witch. She was the one who banished the three brothers. The boy and the girl have the idea that the three brothers would like to return, if only they could find it (they couldn’t any more, as they were kicked out). So, one night the two kids find the portal and go through, not fully aware of the danger. I don’t exactly recall why they went through – curiosity? Wanting to see Grandma? To steal a magic sword? Anyway, the three brothers find out when it’s too late, and can’t go after them. I’m not sure, but I think the kids went to the otherworld in their sleep, and the three brothers have to guard their sleeping bodies and hope they will wake up. They must hope their kids get out in time, because after a length of time they will be trapped in the otherworld. I’ve a feeling the childless brother deliberately arranged it so the kids would overhear them talking about the other world and go in, in case it would make the witch let them back in again.)
The rest is even more vague. The kids go through a sort of maze, then a desert, and all kinds of other things, losing track of time and trying to discipline their thoughts so nothing frightening appears. Finally they get into their grandma’s castle or whatever and it’s all topsy-turvy and sinister. Their grandma isn’t so nice. They nearly get hurt or trapped or something, but manage to make it back and “wake up”.
At the end there is a section where the two kids are outdoors, the girl is hiding behind her hair again and the boy tucks it behind her ear and holds her hand. (They don’t snog. That would be a bit yuck, in a children’s book.)
So there we go. Any title/author suggestions in the comments would be very welcome.