Leon Garfield C. S. Hannabuss - Essay

C. S. Hannabuss

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Lamplighter's Funeral and Mirror, Mirror [are] … very much in the style of books like The Ghost Downstairs and Black Jack. The misanthropic lamplighter Pallcat in The Lamplighter's Funeral has a strange nocturnal meeting with Possul, a street urchin with disconcertingly innocent eyes and, when he becomes Pallcat's apprentice, with an uncanny and disturbing way of lighting up scenes of human misery in the murky Victorian streets. Travellers learn to avoid him, but Pallcat's thoughts are changed by this boy and by the bizarre way the boy views his job. Mirror, Mirror, too, develops a story both sinister and symbolic: apprentice Daniel Nightingale, working for a master-carver of mirror-frames, has to learn to cope with a house full of mirrors and full of the unreasonable sadism of his master's daughter. The mirrors seem to multiply his fears until he finds a way of using them to show her what she really looks like. Leon Garfield's distinctive melodrama allows him to write a compelling adventure and at the same time to explore the sinister side of life in ways children understand…. This is clear from books like Smith and Devil-in-the-Fog, and it is clear in [these stories], even if symbolism of a high Gothic kind sometimes makes some of the imagery a private adult literary experience. (p. 24)

C. S. Hannabuss, in Children's Book Review (© 1976 Five Owls Press Ltd.; all rights reserved), October, 1976.