A beautiful new edition of a favourite book arrived last week from Random House, The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico and with illustrations by an even more favourite artist Angela Barrett.
If I'm honest it's an artist's style I will recognise often at the expense of knowing their name, which won't cheer any of them up I suppose, but I remember Angela Barrett because of two books that take me back to way back when.
But firstly Paul Gallico.
I didn't know much about Paul Gallico until I did a bit of searching around about The Snow Goose so I had no idea he was an American, born in New York City in 1897. I'm not sure where I thought he was from but perhaps the US connection surprises me as he has written a seemingly very English book and one of those stories that seem to have been with me for years.First published in 1941, the story of Philip Rhayader and Fritha one of those gently familiar ones with a little bit of Richard Harris and Jenny Agutter flitting in and out so I must have seen the film at some time.
My only other copy a very 1970's 20p Penguin film tie-in edition also containing that other famous little story The Small Miracle.
Certainly The Snow Goose one of those haunting and classically understated, less is more tales of the mysterious stranger, the magical bird and the inquisitive child and all set against Rhayader's sudden departure to help with the evacuation of the beaches at Dunkirk.
From the Penguin edition I read that in 1936 Paul Gallico settled for a time in a hilltop house at Salcombe in Devon which would have given him plenty of material for the writing of The Snow Goose except that he hardly needed any material.It's a simple story and by his own admission that was Paul Gallico's exact intention. He saw himself as a storyteller and this one certainly seems like a fusion of fairytale, myth and legend all held together by the threads of realism.
Angela Barrett's illustrations are nonpareil, par excellence monochromes that perfectly reflect the setting of the desolate Essex marshes and when colour is used it is subtle and muted. The faces are utterly exquisite, perfect degrees of chiaroscuro delicately used as the story leads us to expect more detail.
"Frith stared at Rhayader. He had changed so. For the first time she saw that he was no longer ugly or mis-shapen or grotesque, but very beautiful"
And the other two books illustrated by Angela Barrett that take me back to way back when?
These two of course and was there ever a more evocative scene than this? This the book that strangely always makes me want to do odd things like put fresh paper on the shelves in the larder ,and if I ever become a domestic goddess I just might, because I think the last lot has been there since the first time I read this book.