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Dido And Pa (The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase Sequence) Paperback – 4 Mar 2004
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"Joan Aiken is a marvel" (Philip Pullman Guardian)
"A writer of wild humour and unrestrained imagination" (Oxford Companion to Children's Literature)
"Rumbustious . . . The reader is entranced by Joan Aiken's language and imagination, grotesque characters, picturesque settings and hilarity" (Writeaway.org.uk)
One of the classic `Willoughby Chase' series originally published in 1986 and now re-issued with a stunning new coverSee all Product description
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Simon, now fully instated as Duke of Battersea, and staunch supporter of the incumbent King Richard, discovers his childhood friend Dido near the isolated village of Petworth, but before he can bring her back to his castle, Mr Twite makes a reappearance, and kidnaps his daughter, bringing her to a seedy area of London, where his benefactor, the truly evil Margrave of Nordmarck has plans to unseat good King Richard, killing off all his close friends and replacing him with and impersonator. A foreign man, chosen because of likeness to the king, who Dido is teaching English. The resourceful and loveable Dido manages to break free and with the help of the mystery shrouded Birthday League, defeat the schemes of the Margrave and her Father. This is one of Joan Aiken's best and darkest books, reintroducing most of her best heroes and villains. Mr Twite is a masterpiece, and even when he is devoured by wolves, we are confused as to rejoice or mourn. Dido once again pulls off her role of the plucky, savvy street child in this extraordinary tale. Recommended ages 6 to wherever!
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This is the best of what I've read in the series, although I haven't read them all. Early books relied a bit overmuch, I think, on parodying classic literature (although they're all quite decent, don't get me wrong, and a couple, THE CUCKOO TREE and THE STOLEN LAKE, are excellent) but DIDO seems to be pretty much its own thing. For those who know the series, this feels like the culmination of the Dido Thwaite story, as she returns to England, stops yet another plot on the King's life, and brings her difficult relationship with her father to a kind of conclusion. (Indeed, I wonder if this was not a personal story for Aiken, as despite all the fantastic goings-on the central concern of the book does seem to be Dido's relationship with her father. Aiken explores the notion of how a great artist can be a terrible human being - Aiken's own father was a fairly famous poet, I have no idea if he was a terrible human being but the similarity in situation seems pretty stark.)
All that makes it sound more dreary than it really is. Actually DIDO AND PA is a wonderfully lively book, complete with plots and counterplots, conspiracies both evil and good, a genuinely charming love affair (actually sort of a couple), some action, and some genuinely weird moments here and there - even a touch of the supernatural that grows as the story reaches its conclusion. Aiken, as I said, was a genius, she had a gift for a very quiet absurdist kind of humor and almost complete tonal control that was really masterful - this is one of the few books I know of where transitions from humor to horror to pathos are completely plausible.
These are marvelous books, highly recommended.
The high point of this installment in the Wolves Chronicles is the quirky relationship between Dido and her father, which is portrayed in a rich series of vignettes between them, cunningly spotted along the course of the tale to provide breaks in the otherwise headlong action. Aiken also shows her usual Dickensian gift in her portrayal of London street life and her creation of villains you love to hate--though Mr. Twite has his sympathetic moments. As the book closes, he has met the fate the apple-seller warned him of, Sophie and her gallant have come to an understanding, and Simon shyly suggests that perhaps Dido will "think about being Duchess of Battersea one day." A satisfying conclusion to Dido's extended globe-trotting.
The redoubtable Dido Twite returns from her adventures in the Atlantic to reunite with Simon (now a Duke) in London, where she finds that once again her nefarious musician father is up to his eyebrows in 'Hanoverian' plots against the Stuart throne. The tale is crammed with incident as Dido and Simon fight the machinations of Abednego Twite and his patron, the evil Margrave Eisengrim. The appearant foundling Is, who (in the next novel) proves to be the daughter of Dido's unhappy sister Penelope, is also introduced.
All Aiken's adventures contain dark edges and disturbing images but in previous novels they were counterbalanced by a more inventive goodness and optimism - although it has to be admitted that 'The Wolves of Willoughby Chase' was a pretty tough cookie for a juvenile adventure. With 'Dido and Pa' the series has become somewhat stale and the characters more routine - though still superior to most of Aiken's competition. Perhaps as a result the Dickensian environment of cruelty and misery becomes more oppressive, which together with the 'just desserts' experienced by the villians makes the novel grim reading for the grade school set.
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