William Mayne Margery Fisher - Essay

Margery Fisher

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In Max's Dream William Mayne has returned to the Corn-wall of A Year and a Day, to the 1890's when, in a small community tightly organised, thirteen-year-old Katie, servant in training to Mrs. Veary, cherishes an unspoken love for Max, the boy who lies in the room above, dominating the household with his precocious speech and his physical helplessness. The story is distanced from the reader not only in date but also in the manner of its telling, for Katie, an old woman waiting for death, is looking back at this critical year in her life, capturing, as the old can, the very ebb and flow of her feelings and the precise detail of cottage kitchen or bedroom, carrier's cart or seaside ferry. The mystery of Max—who he is, what his condition is, when he was orphaned—is unravelled partly as Katie and her peers talk to their elders in the village and partly by their own efforts to break Max's dream of an island, a house full of gold and silver and a silent girl—a girl who, he decides, must be his queen if he is to play the part of king in the midsummer revels on Troy Town…. Both [Max's and Katie's] kinds of prose, simple yet resounding and full of ambiguities, further William Mayne's intention in suggesting the magical rightness and sincerity of children's ideas of the world round them—the customs and hierarchies of the village, the relationship of Katie with riotous Trombo and little Hannah, the different approach of the incomer Max to the environment. Like Alan Garner and Lace Kendall, Mayne has worked people and places into a whole by the force of words simple in themselves but meticulously chosen and "in their best order". (p. 3209)

Margery Fisher, in her Growing Point, November, 1977.