Best 1967 Adventures (2)

By: Joshua Glenn
December 14, 2016

One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1967 adventure novels. Happy 50th anniversary!

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the-owl-service-by-alan-garner

Alan Garner’s YA fantasy adventure The Owl Service.

Set in modern Wales, The Owl Service — the title refers not to some kind of elite strigine task force, but to a set of dinner plates with an owl pattern — is a contemporary “expression” of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion, the earliest prose literature of Britain. Blodeuwedd, in Welsh mythology, is a woman created from flowers, by the magicians Math and Gwydion — for Lleu, a man cursed to take no human wife. Blodeuwedd betrays Lleu in favour of another man, Gronw, who kills Lleu; as punishment, Blodeuwedd is turned into an owl. In Garner’s story, a 15-year-old girl and her new stepbrother are vacationing in rural Wales, where they befriend a local teenage boy. They discover an owl-patterned dinner service… which apparently is cursed, because the next thing you know, the three possessed teens are helplessly, inexorably re-enacting the Blodeuwedd story.

Fun fact: Winner of both the Carnegie Medal and Guardian Award for children’s literature. The Owl Service was adapted as a well-regarded BBC miniseries in 1969–1970. Garner’s other YA fantasy novels — The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960), The Moon of Gomrath (1963), Elidor (1965) — are excellent; so is Red Shift (1973).

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Let me know if I’ve missed any 1967 adventures that you particularly admire.

What do you think?

  1. Excellent! Thanks to a previous recommendation of yours, I recently gave Alan Garner’s “Elidor” a spin. I’m glad I did and I thank you for the guidance. “Elidor” is a triumph of sparse but potent storytelling. I was expecting a fantasy book that luxuriated in playful adjectives and adverbs–whose language swirled like sword-play–but Garner chose, instead, to build the story–and drama–through “simple,” declarative sentences. This tactic deepened the involvement of my own imagination–which I am sure Garner knew it would. Anyway, this author is underrated (vis-a-vis, at least, the American mainstream) and I appreciate the intro.

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