Friday, 24 June 2011

The Owl Service Review

The Owl Service
-          Alan Garner
Publisher: Haper Collins Childern's Books 
It all begins with the scratching in the ceiling. From the moment Alison discovers the dinner service in the attic, with its curious pattern of floral owls, a chain of events is set in progress that is to effect everybody's lives. Relentlessly, Alison, her step-brother Roger and Welsh boy Gwyn are drawn into the replay of a tragic Welsh legend -- a modern drama played out against a background of ancient jealousies. As the tension mounts, it becomes apparent that only by accepting and facing the situation can it be resolved.
This was a surprise gift from my friend, Emma - who writes for the fantastic astronomy blog We Are All In The Gutter – thank you Em! J
Alison and Roger are new stepbrother and sister after their parents recently married, while Gwyn is the Welsh son of the housekeeper. All three are drawn into the ancient legends of the valley as the stories of the past start to be re-enacted through them once again.
When first published in the sixties this was a huge success for Alan Garner and remains in print today. However, the class and social differences of that time do come through as Gwyn is determined to escape his working class roots, while Roger acts more lord of the manor as time goes on. Where this works is the haunting atmosphere of the valley with hints of unearthly happenings – the scratching in the ceiling, the marsh gas, the smell of petrol in the air. Less time is spent on descriptions and more on conversations with a limited number of characters who all have different outlooks on life. The clashing of culture and upbringing plays just as important part to the story as the ghost and legends.
Anyone expecting lots of action and ghostbuster style adventures will be disappointed, but if you want a period tale of ghosts and curses, then this will keep you thinking right up until the final word.
Recommended for fans of Enid Bylton and Lloyd Alexander. 7out of 10.


  1. Nice review of an oldie. I really should read more oldies

  2. I used to love Enid Blyton. Thanks for the review.

  3. I can see how entertaining that would be. Looks like the story held up. I love your oldie book reviews!

  4. I saw this on the BBC news website today and it made me shiver because of this book!