PERFECT GENTLE KNIGHT:
It is 1957 and the six children in the Bell family are struggling
to cope after their mother's death. Because their father has retreated
into his books and his teaching, the older children try to run the
family. The eldest, Sebastian, has begun the game of Knights of the
Round Table, which at first they all find a comforting escape. But
the safety of the game is threatened when Roz, the second eldest,
begins to be more interested in junior high school than pretending.
The main character of the book, eleven-year-old Corrie, feels increasingly
torn between being loyal to Sebastian and the Round Table and to her
new friend Meredith. When Sebastian seems unable to distinguish between
fantasy and reality, Corrie tries desperately to hold her family together.
When I was ages nine to twelve and living in Vancouver,
I spent all my free time playing games with my two best friends. We
pretended to be Robin Hood, Greek gods, horses, cowboys, the kids
in the Narnia books and, most of all, knights of the Round Table.
I was Sir Lancelot, and my friends were Sir Gawaine and Sir Galahad.
We also made up stories about our tiny "Steiff" stuffed animals: mine
was a rabbit called Susie.
When I moved to
Edmonton at age twelve I was devastated at losing not only my friends
but the games we played. I tried to pretend by myself but it wasn't
nearly as engrossing. Of course I was becoming too old to pretend,
but I had a very hard time accepting this. As the Bronte sisters did
in their complicated games, I found these fantasy worlds both enriching
and dangerous. Pretending to be different characters certainly developed
my imagination and helped me create characters when I became a writer.
But the games were so alluring that it was difficult to let them go
and live in the real world.
In this novel
I tried to show both the power and the danger of imagination. At first
playing knights is a comfort for the grief-stricken Bell family, but
eventually the three older ones have to give up the game to grow.
I set this book
in the 1950s because it was much more common for children to play
pretending games then. I really enjoyed remembering that innocent
around the world: