Over Sea, Under Stone Summary
Over Sea, Under Stone is a fast-paced adventure story, full of exciting incident and perilous situations. The action is believable because it is firmly rooted in the ordinary people, customs, and landscape of Trewissick, Cornwall. Margery Gill's realistic pen and ink illustrations contribute to the strong feeling of place drawn by the novel. Cooper and Gill know this setting well; they lay out the story authoritatively and confidently.
The novel, however, is more than an adventure story; it is a modern fantasy, original but firmly rooted in the King Arthur stories. Merriman Lyon, who helps the children through their adventures, is Merlin, Arthur's magician, who is now living in the twentieth century. Knowing the Arthurian legends enriches the reading of the novel, but is not necessary. The legendary and allegorical overtones emerge clearly from the story itself.
In the novel the physical action parallels the conflict of ideas. The abstract and impersonal forces of myth and religion intersect with the precise details of the action and setting. Having grown up during World War II, and having seen what for her was such a clear struggle between good and evil, Cooper is able to convincingly show in her novel how ordinary people are caught up in this struggle and forced to take sides.
In Over Sea, Under Stone, as in the other novels, evil is insidious and deceptive. Often on first sight it appears attractive and only later is seen as horrible. Cooper wants her readers to see the need for choosing between the good and evil in themselves, as well as in the world. She believes that choosing good is often difficult and involves overcoming obstacles, but it is only by choosing good that people can grow and can be happy and free. The novel is particularly powerful for young adults because Cooper stresses how important the Drew children's decisions are.