Feb 25, 2010

'The Doorkeeper' - Octavius Pitt

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The Doorkeeper front cover detail
Octavius Pitt's second novel, 'The Doorkeeper' is set in pre-World War II Britain, the story of an eight-year-old boy who goes to live with his grandparents in Wales. Jonathan Webster's mother has left him and his father for what seemed to her a more glamorous life in fascist Italy. Jonathan's father must briefly leave him also, for work in the United States. Jonathan goes to stay with his maternal grandparents on their farm in Wales, a part of his family his mother turned her back on and about which he knows next to nothing. In Wales, Jonathan finds the love and shelter of a greater family and a place in which he fits. The beauty of his new home can't dispel his concern for his parents but he finds an unusual and unexpected ally who comes to his aid.

The Doorkeeper contains passages of lyrical prose which bring the landscape of its setting to vivid life. The rustic routine of daily life on the farm is described in many passages:-

'Peat, fuel for cooking and winter heating, they cut high up on the hafod land at Fawnog-fawr. Black, wet peat, sliced into rectangular blocks by Mr Williams with his special spade made for the purpose, whilst he sang out happily in the breezes in his lovely baritone voice. Each piece was then laid out by the boys for drying in the warm July winds - plentiful up there now, among misty mountains beyond the distant Conwy river in a picture book panorama. They returned when the blocks were dried, at least as far as the weather had allowed, Prince pulling the big wooden wain down to the hendre, it stacked high with partly dry peat blocks looking like solidified treacle and Jonathan as tired as a virgin navvy holding the reins manfully, the farmer, his pipe burning strongly, giving out gentle instructions to two loved grandsons among curling wreaths of cheerful blue smoke.'

But there is much more here to intrigue and delight the younger reader. What is the secret of the old Mithraic Roman temple? What is the connection between Squire Bellamy and Old Mad Silas? The Doorkeeper controls access to the hidden world of 'Ansaurius' where the real power of 'Mother Earth' is revealed to Jonathan as he is prepared for future adventures he could little have anticipated.

This delightful and occasionally profound tale is ideally suited for older children and younger adults. Mr Pitt has said that this will be the first of several volumes in the series. The reviewer sincerely hopes that volume two will be published soon.

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