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Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
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Over Sea, Under Stone (1965)

by Susan Cooper

Other authors: Margery Gill (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Dark is Rising Sequence (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,4011031,116 (3.82)1 / 255
  1. 30
    The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston (tyranist)
  2. 20
    Earthfasts by William Mayne (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Another classic children's book with an Arthurian theme, bringing the Matter of Britain into the 20th century.
  3. 10
    The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White (Hibou8)
  4. 10
    Elidor by Alan Garner (bookwyrmm)
  5. 00
    Mystery at Witchend by Malcolm Saville (humouress)
    humouress: The same sense of adventure, and children in mid 20th century Britain striving against sinister adults.
  6. 00
    The Greenstone Grail by Amanda Hemingway (bookwyrmm)
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Description: On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special. It is even more than that -- the key to finding a grail, a source of power to fight the forces of evil known as the Dark. And in searching for it themselves, the Drews put their very lives in peril.

This is the first volume of Susan Cooper's brilliant and absorbing fantasy sequence known as The Dark Is Rising.

Thoughts: I received [The Dark is Rising], the second book in this series, as my SantaThing gift. Naturally, I couldn't read it until I read the first book in the series!

This book certainly felt like one written in 1965. The story was good but there is very little time spent on slowly building the character relationships or advancing the plot. It clips along rather quickly from event to event. It's still rather good, just missing a lot of that nuance and atmosphere that most really compelling books would contain today.

Rating: 3.5
Liked: 3.5
Plot: 3.5
Characterization: 3
Writing: 3.5
Audio: 4
( )
  leahbird | Jan 24, 2016 |
This has the potential to be a fun story, but the main characters are flat, their actions are unbelievable at times (even for the setting), and the writing is just so-so. Too many deus ex machina for one story. ( )
  memlhd | Jan 23, 2016 |
This has the potential to be a fun story, but the main characters are flat, their actions are unbelievable at times (even for the setting), and the writing is just so-so. Too many deus ex machina for one story. ( )
  memlhd | Jan 23, 2016 |
Simon, Jane and Barney Drew go to the attractive Cornish fishing village of Trewissick for the summer holidays, where their Great Uncle Merry has secured a holiday home for them and their parents. Attractions include a busy harbour, beaches, walks and a carnival featuring Trewissick’s famous Floral Dance. There’s even a resident dog, Rufus, to add to the fun. The signs are promising for the Drew children to have a wonderful break.

But the signs are not to be trusted: why is the boy whom they encounter on the harbour quay so horrible? Are the nice Norman and Polly Withers all they seem? Why should Jane be wary of the vicar Mr Hastings? Is Mrs Molly Palk the housekeeper as friendly as she appears? And why does Great Uncle Merry keep disappearing?

The scene is set for the Drew children to have an adventure they never expected when they arrived at St Austell train station for the start of their holidays. Apparently Over Sea, Under Stone was begun in response to a competition for family-adventure stories in the style of E Nesbit (Five Children and It may have provided a template) but another model also suggests itself. Three children and a dog may only amount to four characters but when they discover, while exploring the attic, an old manuscript with a sketch map I sense more than a whiff of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories. However, things get much darker more quickly, with ancient mythic conflicts providing a battleground in which the siblings — aided by Rufus and Great Uncle Merry — are required to play a pivotal role.

This is a story where there is little to lighten the mood. Not only do we have the archetypally distant parents but most of the townspeople the trio meet have a pall of suspicion hanging over them. To add to the menace of human adversaries there are chilling phenomena of a supernatural nature; as well as kidnaps and chases the children face an underground journey and the threat of drowning. As a trope the underground journey doesn’t just have mythic significance but is familiar from other children’s literature (notably The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen) and it offers the same scope for suspense and anxiety.

Significantly, their quest for the grail — for this is the object all are searching for — doesn’t prove to be simple, one-goal task: as Barney wisely notes at the beginning, “You can search and search, on a quest, and in the end you may never get there at all.” Their initial exploration of the objects in the house’s attic — “like reading the story of somebody’s life” — will prove the catalyst that initiates the author’s The Dark is Rising sequence, in which their lives will intertwine with other key protagonists, and with Arthurian legend.

Trewissick seems to be a conflation of two locations: one is Mevagissey, southeast of St Austell, which Cooper knew well from holidays there; the other is Trevissick Manor, between Mevagissey and St Austell, currently offering farmhouse accommodation. Much of the action of Over Sea, Under Stone can be located at Mevagissey — Chapel Point is Kenmare Head with its standing stones, Penmare headland is where local legend sites gravestones, St Peter’s church is St John’s in the book and so on. Mevagissey also has a Feast Week with a carnival, as does Trewissick in the book, though this takes place at the end of June as opposed to August, as in Over Sea, Under Stone.

After all the menace and hint of the supernatural I particularly liked the prosaic ending in a national museum, with a Celtic relic in its display case and learned discussion of its provenance by passing academics. This of course underscores Cooper’s elaboration of Arthurian elements here and in the rest of the sequence — which is particularly fitting for a Cornwall setting, given its legendary links to both Arthur and Merlin generally and to King Mark on this same coast, at Castle Dore near Fowey on the other side of St Austell.

Did I enjoy this? Yes, in many ways I did. But I found its endlessly sombre tone oppressive — though I’m sure this was deliberate — and its long extended dialogues, like a long-winded theatre script, were at times quite wearing. As my overriding impression both before and after this reread is oppressiveness as well as being worn down, my assessment may come over as damning with faint praise; but in what is otherwise a cleverly crafted and exciting fantasy these are really my only caveats.

http://wp.me/s2oNj1-oversea ( )
  ed.pendragon | Jan 21, 2016 |
First off, I'm much older than the intended audience for this book. I give this three stars reading it as an adult; I can see why I liked it as a kid, but there is a big gap between then and now! ( )
  dcunning11235 | Dec 21, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Cooperprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gill, MargeryIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jennings, AlexNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westrup, Jadwiga P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For my mother and father, with love
First words
"Where is he?"

Barney hopped from one foot to the other as he clambered down from the train, peering in vain through the white-faced crowds flooding eagerly to the St Austell ticket barrier. "Oh, I can't see him. Is he there?"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This LT work, Over Sea, Under Stone, is Book 1 (of 5 Books) in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising Sequence. Please distinguish it from other single titles in the series, and from any combination(s) of part or all of the series. Thank you.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0020427859, Mass Market Paperback)

On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special. It is even more than that -- the key to finding a grail, a source of power to fight the forces of evil known as the Dark. And in searching for it themselves, the Drews put their very lives in peril.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:03 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

Three children on a holiday in Cornwall find an ancient manuscript which sends them on a dangerous quest for a grail that would reveal the true story of King Arthur and that entraps them in the eternal battle between the forces of the Light and the forces of the Dark.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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