August 11th, 2017

Re-reading Puck Of Pook's Hill

I had thought my copy of Puck of Pook's Hill was a hand-me-down from my grandmother but I checked the flyleaf last night and found it once belonged to Reginald Soundy who was the (deceased) husband of our next-door neighbour in Croydon in the 1950s- so it was a gift from her.

Reginald Soundy had it as a Christmas present in 1908. He was born in 1894- so that would make him 14 at the time. I know this much because he was a flier with the RFC and then the RAF- and an outline of his service record is available on line.

I'm re-reading Puck because we were in Kipling's particular corner of Sussex the other day- Wadhurst, Heathfield, Burwash, Etchingham. I wapped one of Peter Bellamy's CDs in the stereo as we were driving through and that strengthened the connection. 

Kipling is so economical. Puck contains enough material to have furnished a more diffusive writer with a whole string of novels. And yet nothing is skimped. 

Here's a vignette that gives us all we need to know about the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings. 

"Half-way up the King's Hill we found a false fellow from Picardy- a sutler that sold wine in the Duke's camp- with a dead knight's shield on his arm, a stolen horse under him, and some ten or twelve wastrels at his tail, all cutting and slashing at the pigs. We beat them off and saved our pork. One hundred and seventy pigs we saved in that great battle."

So few words, so much information, so much texture. And all in character.  We know exactly what happened, what the speaker's values are and also that he doesn't take himself too seriously....