With time to kill last night (how often can I say that?), I grabbed one of my fave books off the shelf to re-read.
Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. 176 pages and I flew through it in...well, OK, I was sitting there waaaay past my bedtime, but I was lost in the world of Pern for a glorious two hours. I will admit I skimmed a tad, but only because I'd read it countless times before.
What is it about this book that draws me back? Menolly's determination to choose her music over loveless safety? The well-drawn fantasy world? The dragons? The heart-wrenching realization that Menolly's mother allowed her cut hand to heal incorrectly just so she WOULDN'T be able to play music anymore?
No. All those parts are good. The themes are solid, the interplay between characters believable. No, what draws me back is Menolly's resourcefulness; that at fifteen she found or created food, shelter and companionship on her own and survived five threadfalls before she needed to be rescued from its horrible rain. Food? From the ocean below her cave, and the grasses, berries and roots on the bluff. Shelter? The cave she helped the fire lizard queen place her eggs into. Companionship? Nine of the hatchlings that she saved from threadfall the day she decided to run away from home.
Survival of girl alone in the wilderness is a theme that draws me to other books. The Valley of Horses (Jean M. Auel) is one of my favorites not because of the caveman sex, or the horses, but Ayla's hunting, fishing, basket-weaving, fire-making and shelter and companionship finding. When I re-read that one I skip all the parts with Jondalar. Ayla's companions? A baby cave lion and a horse, later joined by her foal.
Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O'Dell) was my first read of such books, when I was a little girl. Another young woman from a primitive society, stuck on an island and fending for herself. Her companion? A dog. Kudos if you can name the dog without looking it up.
My question to myself: is it the triumph over nature that appeals to me, or the fact that these girls all befriended animals? Can you think of any other novels with this theme? Let me know--maybe I'll look them up and read them.