This marvellous moment of realisation occurs to Mori, the heroine of Jo Walton’s Among Others but could be a life saving discovery for any lonely child – and every child is in danger of loneliness as soon as they start to wonder about the world they have been born into.
Joan Aiken was a lonely child, home schooled in a remote village and isolated from the company of other children, but surrounded by books which became her friends instead. In Among Others, Jo Walton’s equally lonely heroine Mori, lives in what could be seen as a fantasy world, but it is also her way of ‘seeing’ the world, and the books she reads are the most real part of it, providing her lifeline – bringing her comfort, meaning and companionship, and in the end, some fantastic solutions.
Joan Aiken resisted the obviously fantastic in much of her writing, but in her short stories she could endow a bleak reality with magical possibilities, and persuasively share her vision of the everyday magic that comes from inside us. She knew from her own experience that magic solutions didn’t come just by wishing, but she had a gift for communicating hope; for showing that out of loneliness imagination is born, and she was able to communicate this through her writing, and to create books that if you let them, can absolutely love you back.
A Ghost Mouse – a story of hope from ‘Watkyn,Comma’
From a story called Watkyn, comma in Joan’s collection A Fit of Shivers