Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book review: The Mountain Door by Rosalie K. Fry

The Mountain Door is the fourth Rosalie K. Fry book I’ve read and it currently ranks a moderately close second in my estimation to Child of the Western Isles (aka The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry). Fry's books have a certain ratio of magical wonder vs. a plainer sort of children-left-to-their-own-devices element. While the magical permeates Child  of the Western Isles, the ratio in The Mountain Door leans slightly more towards the down-to-earth element. As it’s about a pair of girls who were switched by the fairies at birth, magic is central to the story but not manifested much within its pages.

Ella, the human, and Fenella, the fairy child, spend most of the book on their own, wandering the beautiful Irish countryside together, both of them longing to live the life they were born to live, both seeking to undo the fairy mischief that has made them the proverbial fish out of water. Ella fears a return to the mountains and Fenella fears that some meddling human adults will snatch her up and prevent her from returning to the very place Ella dreads.

Fenella’s affinity for animals causes them to collect a charming menagerie of creatures who eventually land them in the perfect spot for a satisfying denouement, complete with quotes from W.B. Yeats and Francis Ledwidge.

Speaking of the Irish, Fry dedicated The Mountain Door to “The family at Caherbrack where most of this story was written.” Little tidbits like this one make me curious to know more. Along with my sporadic but determined quest to read through Fry’s charming books, I’ve tried to uncover her life story as well. There isn’t much biographical information out there but several years ago a wonderful fellow fan in the UK sent me a book containing an autobiographical chapter on Fry (thank you, Stephen!). In these pages I learned that (surprise!) Fry had an enchanting childhood filled with a Wordsworthian proximity to nature. Inside the Fry chapter of Something About the Author, she sheds little light on her writing of The Mountain Door except to explain that she traveled for some “foreign-based stories” and “later did a rather different book in Ireland.”

Fairy lore can be found all throughout the British Isles, so the Irishness of The Mountain Door is not necessarily apparent in its plot points but rather in its Emerald Isle setting and some of the character names. The rest of it—the love of nature, the aforementioned magical vs. ordinary adventure elements—is pure, golden Fry.

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