Friday, April 18, 2014

Victorian Fantasy: "The Water of the Wondrous Isles"

It seems as though it’s been quite a while since I’ve written one of these Journal entries… By gum, it has been a while - since about this time last month, in fact. While I’ve been idle, my alter ego has been busy, but with matters too trivial to write about.

But here we are again, another month and another meeting of the Victorian Fantasy discussion group. This month’s selection is the 1897 novel The Water of the Wondrous Isles, by William Morris, the noted artist. Having read the book several months back, for a meeting of the group that had to be cancelled, the story was not exactly fresh in my mind. I was hoping for a large turnout to conceal that fact but, alas, this was not to be.

The book describes the adventures of a young heroine named Birdalone. Kidnapped by a witch and raised in a forest, she encounters a magical godmother, makes her escape from the witch in a boat that magically travels the titular isles, and meets a variety of people including three women who have been taken from their loves. Eventually she meets the boyfriends, falls in love with one, gets one killed, takes leave of the kingdom, works in a trade, meets more men, people are partnered up, and all live… well, if not happily ever after, at least satisfactorily.

Victorian Fantasy  William Morris 001

As one can see from the photograph above, the reading room had plenty of seating available. Nonetheless, we had an interesting discussion as always, remarking on Morris’ writing style (which had an almost fable-like cadence to it, hearkening back to medieval quest literature - and, of course, Birdalone’s journey is very much a quest), his intense and somewhat unseemly liking for his main character, and why the young lady spends the first part of the book unclothed.

Victorian Fantasy  William Morris 002
I listen to the wisdom of others (no, seriously!)

Victorian Fantasy  William Morris 003
Dame Kghia Gherardi

Victorian Fantasy  William Morris 004
A clean-shaven Sir JJ Drinkwater and Miss Ellie Mink

Victorian Fantasy  William Morris 005
Miss Lacey Brenner

Victorian Fantasy  William Morris 006
Mr. OldeSoul Eldemar...

Victorian Fantasy  William Morris 007
…and his wife, Mrs. (Cassie) Eldemar

Alas, next month is the final meeting for the group, a wrap-up session in which we discuss our favorite (and least favorite?) works, and perhaps even consider what might come next.

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