Teen lust or love?

30th January 1998 at 00:00
MIDNIGHT FAIR. William Mayne. Hodder Pounds 9.99.

One of the very few children's writers who appreciates how permeable is the boundary between everyday life and the imagination, Mayne is in tip-top form here with a story which mixes teen love or lust (no one is sure: and are they ever?) with memories of the same girl, much younger, when her mother had a traumatic miscarriage.

Using Bristol dialect, a mis-spelt diary and snapshot scenes from young and teenage perceptions, Mayne weaves together a story of broken threads slowly mending.

Paul, whose family owns a broken-down fairground carousel, is moonstruck by Victoria, whose posher family lives in a flat and buys her riding lessons. Which is more attractive: the real or the carousel horse ride? And why need she choose? Why does Victoria want to stay a baby? As it turns out, luckily, she doesn't need to.

As ever, Mayne's books work by suggestion and image, not linear narrative, with illuminating flashes: why do we say "move house" when it is everything else that moves and the house that is left behind?

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