Finding the Words

a blog devoted to the art, craft, and frustration of writing

Excerpt from Susan Cooper’s The Dawn of Fear March 29, 2007

Filed under: books 2007 — itsy @ 11:09 pm

I wanted to share this passage, which I came across in the book today. Cooper is a master at creating a sense of danger in children’s literature. She does this very effectively in The Dark is Rising series. Without actually putting the kids in physical danger, she creates the suggestion and anticipation of it which is more than enough. In this book, there’s a more concrete, pressing danger: it’s WWII and the Germans are bombing England.  And what a fabulous end to a scene? It sent chills down my spine.

Derek clambered across the foot of his bed toward him. Even without the blackout curtains, it would have been a dark room, for two large wardrobes were set across the French windows as protection against broken glass. But in the place where his father stood, you could see out of a window, through the apple trees in the garden, and over the fence to the eastern horizon. Lightening was still flickering at one side of the sky, but it was a small local storm and moving quickly away. Derek felt vaguely that his father had not been looking at the storm. He gazed ahead through the gap in the trees, to where the search lights were making their usual weaving crisscross pattern in the sky, blind white groping arms sweeping to and fro. And he saw suddenly that below the searchlights the sky above the horizon was red.

There in the east, it glowed with a reddish orange haze he did not remember having seen before, like a strange, misplaced sunset, glowing in the night sky. “What’s that?” he said.

His mother had quieted Hugh and come up behind them, and when she spoke, there was the same curious, taut note that he had heard in his father’s voice.

That’s London, burning,” she said.


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