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on 31 March 2012
When I was nine (back in the dim, distant past that we'll refer to as 1968) I had a teacher called Mrs McEke. She was a strict disciplinarian but she probably needed to be given that her class was full of little oiks from the local council estate (like me!). Mrs McEke used to spend the last half-hour of every school day reading to us. She loved language and was a wonderful orator, bringing the stories to life through the strength of her vocal delivery.

Given that we were only nine she made some fairly ambitious choices; The Hobbit, The War of the Worlds, The Silver Sword, The Railway Children and even John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos (definitely left-field). However I will always be indebted to her for choosing to read Alan Garner's Elidor.

Elidor had only been published in 1965, so at that stage it was a fairly contemporary novel. Although Garner was ostensibly writing for children the book had some very adult themes. It was a brave Mrs McEke that tried to illustrate symbolism to a bunch of largely disinterested nine year olds. However she would probably be delighted to learn that some forty-four years on at least one of her pupils still remembers the symbolic importance of the sword, the spear, the stone and the cauldron.

I was completely entranced by the tale of four children and their rusty relics, which opened a gateway to another world. It seemed like a cool and edgy version of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" but set in the real world, or at least a world that I could identify with.

We used to have a travelling library van that visited the estate every Monday evening, and I managed to obtain a copy of Elidor and raced through it in advance of Mrs McEke's reading so that I was always one step ahead of her. Garner's writing was a revelation to me and he became one of my early heroes as I worked my way through his other books.

Characterisation is not really his strong point as a writer, although his dialogue is an object lesson to any aspiring writer, exploding like little emotional depth charges on the page. As ever with Garner it is the power of myth which is his main fascination.

As an adult I do have a few gripes with the novel which weren't as apparent to me when I first read it. Overall the tone is cold and distant. There is very little to engage the reader in Elidor's plight, and therefore very little sense of empathy. The ending seems horribly rushed, almost as if Garner had grown tired of his tale and wanted to finish it up and move on. However these minor gripes aside Elidor will always have a special place in the memories of my childhood.
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on 19 November 2001
Although Elidor is usually classified as a Children's book and is indeed fairly short and easy to read, it will astound readers of any age. I first read this book at the age of ten and have re-read it on a regular basis over the last 30 years!
The plot is essentially a classic tale of Good against Evil where the fate of a whole world is held in the hands of four ordinary children.
However, what makes it so special is the way the Author intermingles our everyday, ordinary world (in this case, the back streets of Manchester) with the mystical world of Elidor. Characters, objects and magic "leak out" of one world into the other, making it quite a scary read for children , but by the the same score, totally captivating. At the end of the story you are left with the feeling that there really might be other worlds just beyond our vision.
If you have enjoyed this story you may well enjoy other books by Alan Garner, such as "The Weird Stone of Brisingamen" "The Moon of Gomrath" and "The Owl Service" where the theme of a more magical and mystical world lying just below the surface of our ordinary lives, is again explored.
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on 17 January 2011
If you think this is formula fantasy with four children charged with four magical treasures who overcome foes, and adult disbelief, to eventually triumph as heroes and save the fantasy land you would be very, very, very wrong......really can't say more without spoiling it.
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on 19 October 2009
I really enjoyed this book. It is an ideal choice for Key stage 2 readers, as it is not overlong or complicated in plot. It begins with the familiar; moving house, a city setting and the characters being children which can be easily related to. It had a balance of reality, intrigue, suspense, danger and magic. Well worth a read-whatever your age!!
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on 14 March 2008
As a reader of children's fantasy, this book is a revelation. It follows so few of the conventions that its novelty makes it a page turner. The gritty slums of contemporary Manchester provide most of the background, and the deserted fantasy land provides the rest, both imbued with real ambience. The earlier Garner books, though great to read, feel pale and clichéd by comparison. The book enthrals and keeps you guessing from literally the first page to the very last sentence, which left me hungry for more.
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on 23 March 2001
Elidor is not at all like the "Weirdstone..." books, rather it owes a lot more to the "Owl Service", i.e. far more mystical and mysterious. This does not take away from the book itself though, which is very readable, and takes the reader away to places beyond the immagination. It is unlike the "Owl Service" however, as the book is far easier to read, and the narrative far less locked up in the mystery of the book.
All of his books are on my "must read" list though, along with Harry Potter, David Eddings,Terry Brookes, and Stephen Lawhead.
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An outstanding fantasy novel set somewhere near Manchester, but not necessarily in the Manchester that we know, maybe more alongside Manchester in another dimension. However the four principal characters are all Mancunians, but soon meet otherworldly people and creatures and take on a world saving task to defeat the forces of evil.

The story is loosely based on a combination of tales from British folklore, including Childe Roland from the English, four of the castles from Irish folklore, and the land of Elidor has Welsh origins.

My children first introduced me to this book when it was brought home from the school library, and of course we needed to buy our own copy to read, and reread, and reread again. Thirty years on and I've now replaced that much loved and totally worn out one with this fresh copy!

I strongly recommend this for children of all ages, partly because it is so well written that adults can appreciate it just as much, partly because as a bedtime story the pictures on the insides of the eyelids are in full colour, and partly because the urge to find out what happen next is a spur to children reading it themselves.
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on 12 April 2013
These are quite simply great books of their kind, and they more than stand comparison with Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper and suchlike. They have a timeless appeal to children from around 8 to 13, both because of the magic and adventure that they contain, and also because they are grounded in what feel like real lives and what are indeed real places.

Of all the books I read when I was that age, these are the ones which I remember finding most thrilling (particularly the scenes in which Colin and Susan are lost in the mines), and I vividly recall wanting to visit the locations around Alderley Edge in Cheshire where the first two books are set. The mere fact that this was possible seemed to make the stories so much more satisfactory than stories about Narnia and Middle-Earth.

I read the books to my children at a similar age with equal enjoyment, and doing so inspired me to write my own contribution to the genre, a children's adventure set on Sark in the Channel Islands (The Isle is Full of Voices, which is available through Amazon for the Kindle).
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on 14 February 2014
I first read Elidor in about 1975. I had previously read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and this one did not let me down. Alan Garner has a way of mixing up fantasy and reality in a way which seems natural and unforced. Elidor tells the tale of four children who find themselves tangled up in a battle to save Elidor, but they find that once they get back to their Manchester home, the evil forces follow them through.

This is one of Alan Garner's more accessible stories, and is a perfect introduction to fantasy, and a sense that what we see around us is not all there is to know.

As children grow, they might move on to The aforementioned Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath. And eventually on to Red Shift and finally Boneland.

Highly recommended.
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on 9 June 2012
Older readers of 'Elidor' might notice first its period detail: we're in mid-sixties Manchester, a fragmenting city of slum clearance, bomb sites and sprawling new council estates. The more inquisitive might seek out the story's mythic underpinning: a very little online sleuthing will reveal the elements of Welsh and Irish mythology on which Garner has drawn. Some will admire the terse, driven prose: stripped back and sandblasted, bearing nuggets of poetry that gleam like gemstones. Every word necessary.

Younger readers will simply be seduced by the tale itself.

Its enduring power lies in its unresolved mystery. Garner primes his protagonists by dislocating them - literally. The children are moving house, out from the city to a country cottage that's now surrounded by suburbia. The mundane world is fracturing around them; it's through the rents torn by demolition that the other world erupts.

What's clever is that we learn so little about that world. Only once do we enter Elidor for any extended period; mostly we glimpse it, as do the children, through keyholes and porches. We, like them, never fully understand the source of the darkness that threatens this realm, or the reason for the conflict that tears it apart. After all, as Malebron tells them: "Darkness needs no shape. It uses. It possesses."

The children - led by Roland's troubled imagination - embrace their mission unwillingly; even as they redeem Elidor on the book's final page, they remain baffled by the forces that they've engaged. All they know is that, in triumphing over some inarticulate evil, they've condemned themselves to exile from Elidor's reawakened glory. On one side of the imaginative divide, "streams danced, and the rivers were set free, and all the shining air was new". On the other, the children are abandoned, "alone with the broken windows of a slum."

'Elidor' isn't fantasy. It shows imagination for what it is: confusing, demanding, and painful. And because young people know these qualities from experience, they respond with recognition to Garner's book. It was great in 1965, and it's great now.
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