Saturday, 1 October 2016
THE QUIET MUSIC OF GENTLY FALLING SNOW by Jackie Morris. Reviewed by Adèle Geras
I came home one day from a trip to London to find a huge parcel waiting for me. It was this book: THE QUIET MUSIC OF GENTLY FALLING SNOW, written and illustrated by Jackie Morris, the very well known artist and writer of many wondrous books for children. The volume measures 37cms by 28cms. It's a a picture book for adults and I believe it would be good if there were more of these published, because we don't stop appreciating beauty when we leave our childhood behind. It's published by Welsh publisher, Graffeg, and they've done Morris proud. It costs £25 which seems to me to be excellent value.
The book has an usual genesis. Since the year 2000, a charity called HELP FOR MUSICIANS UK has commissioned Jackie Morris to create a Christmas card for them. All of the cards are reproduced at the back of the book. This book knits and crafts those cards together into a single volume made up of many stories, weaving their threads (a favourite word of Morris's) into a beautiful tale (or tales) of loss and love and music. Because of the origin of the cards, the stories are about music; its creation, its destruction; its fragilities and strengths. Morris's love of music comes over in every story and there's a sort of counterpoint that runs through them.
Morris has added pictures as well as stories. The creatures who inhabit these tales are ones we know she loves from her other books: bears, swans, hares and birds. The ingredients of fairy tales (towers, snow, forests, ships, trees) fill the narrative, skilfully woven into something singular and strange. Reading the book is very much like listening to different songs, different tunes drifting into your consciousness.They're described as lullabies for grown ups and that's very accurate. The narratives are loose and flowing. The characters appear and reappear and disappear and the animals change and become creatures different from the ones we first thought we'd met. The rhythm of the prose sets out to lull the reader and succeeds in doing exactly this.
The instruments, depicted many times in the wonderful paintings on every page, are fiddles, flutes, lutes and drums. Anyone interested in identifying them can spend many happy hours looking at each double page spread and seeing what can be found in each one.
The pear tree in the 'partridge in a pear tree' illustration is also the Singing Ringing Tree which goes on to create forests which it takes seven weeks to walk through. That seven is of course another link with the world of the fairy tales.
This book would make a most beautiful Christmas present for any adult who enjoys fairytales, music, and above all, rich and gloriously coloured illustrations which depict people, creatures and places which are buried in our imagination and which, thanks to Morris, we can pretend are real. She has moved the fantastical from the realm of our dreams and into the light of our real world.
Hardback published by GRAFFEG