Season of Secrets - Dwell in the mystery

Season of Secrets Season of Secrets -
Dwell in the mystery
zur deutschen Version Autumn is coming - inevitably, as the tides, day and night they alternate, the seasons.

Today is the first afternoon of this summer, where we have an almost autumnal afternoon, with clouds, with a blanket in the chair, a cat, a cup of coffee, a book.
It and is just the perfect moment to re-dedicate myself to that book that I have jealously been guarding over the summer, and which
reads best starting Sept 22nd, because, strictly speaking, it starts around that day.


Sally Nicholls - Season of Secrets - Kapitelillusttation
I have - very bravely - not read in it during the past weeks, because it would almost have been a sacrilege to read this book in the middle of the summer on a blanket on the lake or to "snack it" during the lunch break  while sitting on the low wall on the Werra.

The book "Season of Secrets" is the most poetic, most magical, most touching book I've read in a long time and that's why I waited so long, because this book deserves an afternoon on which one can only devote oneself to it.
Molly and her sister Hannah are seeing a hard time. Not only  has her mother suddenly died and the two have to deal with this grief. Furthermore their father, more than overwhelmed with the challenge, doesn't manage to deal with his own grief, let alone taking care for the two girls. His only way out: He sends them to his parents who have a small grocery store in a small English town.
Symptomatic of how he deals with problems and ambiguous situations is a scene in the back of the book, when the police was there and has been searching for 'the man' (more on that later) - an has found nothing. There must be a parent-child conversation to sort things out.
Sally Nicholls - Season of Secrets - Kapitelillustration Molly expected him to go into a hold against her, she even hopes him to, but nothing happens. Her mother would have done so, her grandmother, probably would have sent away shaking her head after she had been giving her a piece of mind. Her grandfather, thinks Molly, would have kissed her and told her he loves her. Her father does nothing of the sort. He simply opens his mouth and closes it again when he did not know what to say (p. 182).
Instead of fighting to sort things out, this father drowns in his own grief and helplessness. So the two girls experience a double loss. He also left them alone.
The book begins on a rainy September afternoon, as the two girls come back from school. Destined, as so often, is the fact that they are there, not at home and that  "nobody" is there waiting for them - that is one of the fundamental tones of the book. Hannah, the older of the two girls, deals with the painful experience with anger and rage, while Molly is quiet and withdrawn. Molly's only "ally" seems to be the grandfather, who shows his granddaughter, at least now and again, his love through a hug, while her grandmother is more matter-of-fact and sober.
Sally Nicholls - Season of Secrets - KapitelillustrationHannahs anger breaks a path, and the situation escalates. That evening, it's pitch dark outside, Hannah is in Molly's room and literally drags her out of bed. It takes a moment to understand what Hannah wants Molly to do: She wants to get away, go home! Running away, walk to the train station to Hexham, and from there by train through Northumberland back home.
Molly reluctantly follows her sister out into the darkness. It's stormy. Molly stands alone on this road through fields and marshes, some trees. Hannah is already apparently running ahead.
Until that moment I had wondered why the book that yet deals so obviously with the subject of death and mourning of children, is advertised with "mystery and myth," on the headline on the cover, that "sweep in with the storm". I thought, "YAWN, nicely written, but otherwise ..." and was almost here to put the book aside, as this paragraph  grasped my notice:

It`s so pitchy-black and rainy, it is hard to tell how far I`ve gone.  The moon`s risen; a silver thumbnail shining through dark, rushing clouds. The lane has narrowed and the trees on the steep banks are closer. They send long, dark branch-fingers looming and roaring over my head.
`I`m not afraid.`I say, out loud.
Because now, I can hear something coming. Someone. Feet. Feet, running towards me. My heart jumps. Who would be out on a wild night like this? Alone, without a torch? It`s the devil - I know it is. I turn and stumble-run up the bank, slipping and almost falling in the mud. I`m not going to make it. (...)
And here he is. A dark shape, bent and running. It`s a man, low and strong. He`s so close now that I can hear his breath catch in his throat.

Ok ... this was getting exciting. The man is chased by a pack of dogs, he can not escape. And behind the hounds are hunters on horseback. The main hunter stops his horse and ... Molly can hardly swallow down a scream : The man has horns, growing out at both sides of his head.
Sally Nicholls - Season of Secrets - KapitelillustrationThis man  - assuming is it one - raises a horn to his lips and blows a clear, long tone - and disappears.
From there the story takes a more than astonishing turn of events. First Molly is in shock after the experience, trembles and breaks into tears. The man who injured himself is trying to calm her down, actually manages to do so. When her grandmother finds her, Molly stammers something about a man who is hunted, who was injured by a pack of dogs and a man with horns.
No wonder nobody believes her.
Shortly afterwards Miss Shelley, the teacher, takes them to a nearby church, where the children receive the order to draw something, something that 'appeals to them'. The children set off on the search inside the church, and to Molly's endless amazement, she discovers the hunted man there, the man sje normally adresses as "my man":

Halfway down the church are two stone pillars. At the top of both is a face made of stone. A man. He`s got big eyes and a long, thick nose. There are leaves sticking out of his face and his hair. He looks bright and wild, like an old god or a goblin in a fairy tale. He doesn`t look like he ought to be allowed in a church.

Miss Shelley explains to her that this man, who hardly managed to escape death, is the "Green Man", followed by the "Wild Hunt".

The Green Man is linked to the cycle of death and rebirth. He`s put on graves as a sign of hope. (...) The Green Man i an old god - from before most people could read or write - so we don`t really know anything about him. But people think he might have been the God of summer - or of spring. (...) Think of him like a year. He`s born with the spring, grows into his full power in the summer, fades in the autumn and dies in the winter.

And in fact - the man whom Molly met is actually the "Green Man".
Sally NichollsSally Nicholls tells in her book several stories at once. on only 254 pages. There is Molly and her family, who have to find a way to live with the death of the mother, and then there is that ancient mythological story about the "Green Man" as a symbol of summer and life, who has to bow to the might of winter and die in order to arise  anew the following year.
All this the author writes in a wonderfully unhurried way that is exciting, but is not really scary. While reading I drowned in the story and felt surrounded by a cocoon, which produced a superb pleasurable and relaxing feeling. It was a really special experience.
One is - and then the covertext proves to be very true - interwoven in the story of a child with a broken heart and an ancient legend, a magical tale of love, healing and strange magic.
The complexity of the narrative is always present and without being didactic, a child can - in addition to the  entertainment of the story - even learn a little lesson about life. It is not always fair, some things just happen and sometimes you can not defend yourself against what life brings with it - but have to live with it.
Season of Secrets - Sally NichollsAt the same time it is the story of an early explanation of the people for the course of the seasons, for (alleged) death and dying in the world in winter, only to rise again back to life in spring .
It is a book in which you want to be cuddle yourself up to immerse in a pagan world, where injured gods hide himself in a shed, autumnal mist damps over fields in the twilight, and a girl finds her way back.
A wonderful autumn book, a real discovery.

Season of Secrets
Sally Nicholls (Author), Sarah Jane Coleman (Illustration)
April 2009
272 pages, 9,30€
ISBN: 978-1407105130
Publisher: Scholastic

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