And Put Away Childish Things: whither Aslan?

There were a few good things to come out of the pandemic, and this delightful confection is one of them. Anyone nostalgic for Narnia’s warm cosy glow should be suitably charmed by the author’s deft juxtaposition of sentimental childhood touchstones and the cripplingly ridiculous mid-life crisis of a third-rate actor.

A thoroughly unlikeable fellow, protagonist Harry Brodie is losing his grip on a miserably mediocre TV career. Soon even documentary voice-overs and daytime TV will be unattainable achievements. So he signs up for one of those ‘uncover your ancestry’ shows…

…and the next thing you know, bedraggled mythical critters come crawling out of inappropriate items of household furniture. Because it turns out that the books written by his grandma, about a magical fantasyland, might not have been entirely imaginary. And some of the wondrous creations are rather more sinister than they initially appear.

It takes real skill to transform the political ineptitude and the sheer grinding anxiety of 2020 into a genuinely entertaining – even uplifting – experience. It’s easy to be cynically witty, and author Adrian Tchaikovsky certainly doesn’t miss any opportunity for a spot of sly satire or to poke fun at some of the dafter conventions of the fantasy genre.

But Childish Things doesn’t run roughshod over cherished memories. This is a loving tribute to the world created by CS Lewis – not a demolition job. Like The Magicians by Lev Grossman, it’s an adult extrapolation of the tales which so mesmerised us in childhood. Imaginative and unpredictable, it’s also agreeably concise and bewitchingly easy to consume in one greedy sitting.

Despite the title, Childish Things quietly reminds us that the child inside never really went away. Nor is anyone, however objectionable they may seem, entirely irredeemable.

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
And Put Away Childish Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky is available at Amazon


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