Book of the Night

An Åcon tradition is the Book of the Night. One programme item will be a communal book discussion for all who want to participate. This year’s Book of the Night is Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison!

travel_lightThere are fairy tales and there are Fairy Tales. Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison is the latter. A wonderfully whimsical, yet gently subversive little fantasy that combines intelligence with memorable characters. There are dragons, Valkyries, heroes and villains, gods, trolls, unicorns and talking bears.

This is a fairytale first and foremost; its intelligence is ever-present but always understated, and the reader immediately warms to this commendable lack of self-importance.

Travel Light is the story of Halla, a girl born a princess but forced to escape her stepmother, the new queen. She lives among bears, but since she cannot hibernate with them, she moves to live with the dragons. But the time of dragons is passing, and Odin All-Father offers Halla a choice: Will she stay dragonish and hoard wealth and possessions, or will she travel light?

Contrary to appearances, this is not a simple book with a simple morality stuck at the end.There are moments of pain and devastating emotion, but Mitchison’s prose delivers effortlessly both the depth of horror or joy. Travel Light begins as a fable but it resists conventional tropes, moving from mythic to recorded history in the way the sun moves across the sky. The tone of the book changes as the story develops and gains volume. This is a beautiful gem of a book, one that defies categorisations, while staying true to the heart of being a Fairy Tale.

Who was Naomi Mitchison? She was a vocal feminist, social activist and versatile writer, a Commander of British Empire, who lived to be 101 years old and author of over seventy books covering a wide range of genre including historical, science fiction, travelogue, poetry, and autobiography. Mitchison is a sadly forgotten treasure that ought to be remembered and appreciated more widely.

Where to get the book