Thursday, May 29, 2014

Vienna and More from Eva Ibbotson

    Recently, I made a short mention of a book by Eva Ibbotson -- The Star of Kazan.  This story is set in Vienna.  According to a description of the book, it is set at the end of the 18th century.  However, while reading the book, I got the impression that it was set around 1908, though I am not sure.

     From wikipedia:  "The Star of Kazan (2004) is a novel written by Eva Ibbotson. It is about a child called Annika who was left as a baby just days old in a church. A cook and a housemaid take her home to some peculiar professors who live in Vienna."  From the book description at Amazon, "In 1896, in a pilgrim church in the Alps, an abandoned baby girl is found by a cook and a housemaid. They take her home, and Annika grows up in the servants' quarters of a house belonging to three eccentric Viennese professors."
     I guess that explains the book's time-setting misunderstanding I had.
     Another main character is "Zed ... a friendly gypsy boy who works for Edeltraut von Tannenberg. He is the son of a horse dealer and is descended from gypsies."
     These two become friends and their lives become intertwined.
     I mentioned this book in a post about books about WWI.  The main action of this story takes place before the Great War, in a time when Emperor Franz Josef was much beloved and Vienna was unaware of the world that was to come to Europe in less than a decade.  It is a wonderful time, it seems.  Vienna is a wonderful place to be.  I had added this book to the list of books about WWI because, knowing what was coming so soon ... made the story more poignant for me as a reader who enjoyed the story and liked the characters.

     Eva Ibbotson was born in Vienna in 1925.  I was planning to share a bit of her biography here, but ... I think you will have to check out the Wikipedia article and two obituaries  (and probably some of the other citations for the Wikipedia article -- links to the two obituaries are at the end of the post) to try to figure out how long she lived in Vienna.  Vienna is the setting for at least three of her books.

     Other books by Eva Ibbotson that I have read or listened to include:
     *  The Ogre of Oglefort
     *  Dial-A-Ghost

     All three of these fantasy books are fun to listen to.  My favorite of the three is The Ogre of Oglefort, published in 2010.

     In The Secret of Platform 13, four rescuers are sent to London to retrieve the kidnapped son of their king and queen.  Every 9 years, a gump under Platform 13 of King's Cross Station opens up.  This allows the residents of an unknown island to travel to London or for others to travel to the island.  Nine years ago, the prince was kidnapped.  The four rescuers -- a wizard, a giant ogre, a fey and a young hag -- have nine days to find, rescue and return the prince to the island.
     DO NOT read the Publisher's Weekly review / synopsis of the book!  It's a "spoiler" -- revealing what most readers figure out very early and the book's characters figure out only at the very end.  They, Publisher's Weekly, must think that if readers will make this discovery for themselves so easily it is okay for them to reveal it.  The book is aimed at an audience 9 to 12 years old or grades 4 to 6.  Readers at this level (or probably at any level) will be pleased to figure out how things are long before the supposedly wise and able rescuers.  Why spoil that?
     If you read reader reviews of books, disregard any that claim this book is a Harry Potter "wanna-bee" or imitator.  The publication of this book preceded the Potter series.
     Oh, and one reviewer mentioned something I had forgotten (and I just listened to this book in the last couple of weeks) -- the harpies!  They are hilarious.  And there is one that carries a handbag and seems to resemble a certain "iron lady" of British politics ... Meaning, this book can be shared by adults with their children and the adult will find enjoyment in it too.

     The Ogre of Oglefort, again features a set of four rescuers.  This time to they go to an island.  Here they are to rescue a "princess" (daughter of a family that lives in a castle but the island really does not have a monarchy) from the clutches of an evil ogre.  These four rescuers include a hag who moved to London from a "dribble," an orphan named Ivo, a troll who works as an orderly in a hospital, and a wizard who is the son of a banshee. 
      When the four rescuers make their way to the ogre's castle, they discover that things are not what they seem ... and it is the ogre who needs "rescuing."
     This is another book adults won't mind sharing with children.  The audiobook version, suited for a car trip or just listening to instead of turning on the TV, will be enjoyed by all.

    I'm afraid it has been over a year since I listened to Dial-A-Ghost.  I remember bits of the plot and its twists, but not enough of them to give a synopsis of the book -- except to say that the ghastly ghosts, that have been rented to haunt the castle, go astray;  gentle ghosts arrive instead.  I remember that I enjoyed the book -- so it is probably time to listen to it again.  :-)

     Have you read any of these Eva Ibbotson books?  Or some of her other books?  Let me know in the comments section and I'll email you a pdf file with a printable bookmark and bookplate.

[If you wish to read a little more about Eva Ibbotson, here are links to two obituaries about her:]

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