Monday, December 3, 2007

Book Review by Lai Min: The Otters' Tale

I have just read a book. It's The Otters' Tale written by Gavin Maxwell in 1962. My dad asked me if I enjoyed the story. I told him it's mostly about everyday's stuff; that the author wrote about his pet otters and what they did. I felt the story wasn't really exciting.
My dad looked at me and said that one of the greatest challenge is to write things which are ordinary and seemingly insignificant. Dad took the book and leafed through the pages and pointed out to me three consecutive paragraphs to prove his point.
"In the sea, Mij found his true, breathtaking powers; until he came to Scotland he had never swum in deep waters, for the lakes and lagoons of his native marshes are shallow. Now he would swim beside me as I rowed in the little dinghy, and in the glass-clear waters of Camusfearna bay, I could watch him as he dived down, down, down through fathom after fathom to explore the gaudy sea forests at the bottom, with their flowered shell glades and mysterious, shadowed caverns. For hours he would keep pace with the boat, appearing now on this side and now on that, sometimes mischieviously seizing an oar with both arms and dragging on it, and from time to time bouncing inboard with a flurry of water.
He caught a number of fish on his daily outings, and in the burn he learned to feel under stones for eels, reaching in with one paw; and I in turn learned to turn over the largest stones for him, so that after a time he would stand in front of some boulder too heavy for him to move, and chitter at me to come and lift it for him.
He loved rough seas too. He rejoiced in the waves; he would hurl himself straight as an arrow right into the great roaring grey wall of an oncoming breaker and go clean through it as if it had neither weight nor momentum; he would swim far out to sea through wave after wave until the black dot of his head was lost among the distant white manes, and more than once I thought that some wild urge to seek new lands had seized him and that he would go on swimming west into the sea of the Hebrides and that I should not see him again. But though there were anxious times when he was away too long for my peace of mind he always came back".
Dad admired the way Gavin describes Mij's actions and the sea. He also impressed on me how the author wrote about his emotions - his anxiety and fear. Dad said Gavin captured the mood of the outing very well. It revealed the intimate relationship between the author and his pet, and the sea that they both love.
I agree with my dad's observation. As I re-read Gavin's dedication I realized why he wrote the book in the first place. It read, "To all, but more particularly children, who also seek understanding between humans and other animals".
I have a cat. Her name is Gila. One day if I were to write an account of my life with her, I will draw inspiration from Gavin's book and his style of writing.
boulders - large rocks
breaker - a wave breaking into foam
burn - (Scot) a small stream
Camusfearna bay - a bay in Scotland
cavern - underground chamber or cave
fathom - a unit of depth equals six feet
gaudy - brightly ornamented
glades - clear area within woods
Hebrides - Scottish islands
marshes - swamps
white manes - sea foam


Haloaaaargh9 said...

You've a very natural and thoughtful style of writing, Lai Min.

Did you transcribe all those passages yourself? You've amazing!

I like the look of your cat. She has a lovely coat; such nice colours.

Thanks for review. Will look out for book.


Haloaaaargh9 said...

Actually, Lai Min, how did you get those links for the geographical names? You searched for appropriate sites and then inserted them, or what?

Joe Lai said...

Dear Aunty Littly,

thank you for your encouragement. Dad is mentoring me. We wrote it together. He helped me to recognise the four different perspectives with which I can write from, i.e. 'me and the book', 'dad and the book', 'me and dad' and 'me and me' (my own feeling or musing). As for your question about the geographical links, you are right. Making links is simple to do in blogging. Thanks again, Aunty Littly.

Joe Lai said...

Oops! The last comment is from me, Lai Min. I am using my dad's account bacuase I don't have one of my own.

Lai Min

Haloaaaargh9 said...

And I'm using Cian's account, cos I don't have one of my own!
-- We should do something about this sorry state of affairs, don't you think?