Dangerous Wishes?

What if you really could have All You’ve Ever Wanted‘?

Of course in Joan Aiken’s wild imagination this is the sort of  wish that could go wildly wrong – in fact she had such fun with the idea that it led to a whole collection of stories giving a new twist to fairy tale themes, and they became her first story collection, published nearly seventy years ago.

In the title story, All You’ve Ever Wanted our heroine, the ill-starred Matilda, an orphan of course,  is brought up by six unlikely Aunts – but every year on her birthday  the seventh and absentee Aunt, sends a delightful Greetings Card with Best Birthday Wishes which has the unfortunate habit of coming true –  to the letter! 

One year Matilda is promised that she will be greeted every day by a ‘Rosy Morn’ but:

  “as you know, a red sky in the morning is the shepherd’s warning, and the fatal result of Aunt Gertie’s well meaning verse was that it rained every day for the entire year.”

Worse still was the verse on another  card which promised that her life would  hold  ‘Many Happy Hours’ and all her way ‘Be Strewn with Flowers’ –   the effect of which was to send her rushing out of her now embarrassingly blossom-filled office at the Ministry of Alarm and Despondency, where in fact she had previously spent many happy hours, to send desperate pleas for help  to Aunt Gertie  via The Times and The International Sorcerers’ Bulletin – because of course Aunt Gertie is a witch…

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Two more well meant wishes offer the joys of constant companionship from ever faithful friends –  and perhaps those of us dealing with the twenty-four hour demands of social networking, know what this can actually be like…!    

The first of these read:

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For a story first published in 1953, this was remarkably prescient – who would have imagined that these days it would be perfectly possible to have  three hundred and sixty-five friends  appearing ‘cheery and frolicsome and gay’ on your doorstep every morning, or at least on your phone screen! Would this be ‘All You’ve Ever Wanted’, or would it make you yearn to erase your Twitter account and Facebook page at once and escape to a desert island…..?

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Read more of Matilda’s story here

Visit the website to read more about  ALL YOU’VE EVER WANTED Joan’s first book, published in 1953 and all her other story collections

Look out for new collection of favourite Aiken stories  now out from

Virago Children’s Classics

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And

Read a wonderful letter from Joan Aiken which introduces this collection

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“If you love books enough, they will love you back.”

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.

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A Ghost Mouse – a story of hope from ‘Watkyn,Comma’

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From a story called Watkyn, comma in Joan’s collection A Fit of Shivers

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