Aaaahhh, Summer in December

h1 December 2nd, 2008 by jules

This is a Quickie Post in Grand Appreciation of a Great Opening Paragraph.

I’ve been reading Polly Horvath’s newest novel, My One Hundred Adventures. No, really. I know I’ve been talking about picture books and illustrators A LOT lately here at 7-Imp, but I do still read novels, too. Anyway, it’s wonderful, and I love Horvath’s writing (er, 99.9% of the time). My One Hundred Adventures, published by Schwartz & Wade this September (and which, incidentally has been met with all kinds of starred reviews and comments such as “a masterful novel of considerable beauty” and “Horvath…at her finest”), tells the story of twelve-year-old Jane, who lives on the beach with her mother and siblings — and who longs for adventures. The novel centers around one particular summer in Jane’s life, one that involves a ride in a hijacked hot air balloon—with Nellie Phipps, preacher and very amateur psychic—and a falling-Bible mishap on said ride; babysitting a group of rowdy children as a result of the falling scripture; meeting a handful of men, one of whom could be her father; and more. Oh, and I’m not even done with the book. I’m sure there’s much, much more to come.

And you know when you read an opening paragraph that makes you go WOW!? Well, this opening did that for me. Such vivid imagery, such longing, such beauty, even a bit of mystery. When I was a child, I remember dwelling upon about the enormity of outer space and wondering if the universe has an end and where it might be and feeling so small and trying to wrap my head around the magnitude and immensity of things like planets and…well, you get the idea. So, I particularly love the “where the things we don’t know yet reside” bit. Also: I loathe being cold. At this time of year, if you see me walking outside—even in weather most people can handle—I walk hurriedly, tense, shoulders hunched to an almost absurd degree. I mean, sure, we all walk hurriedly in the cold, but cold winds actively piss me off (though, I know—wah wah—I’m here in the South where it’s not even that bad). It’s irrational, I know. And I still like winter; I don’t mean to knock it. We can stay inside and drink hot chocolate and take hot baths and other warm things (think Lauren Stringer’s 2006 picture book on the matter). So, since I evidently have no blood (for serious, I get cold in 70-degree weather), this is another reason to appreciate this lovely opening paragraph at this time of year. When I read this, I’m oh-so, EVER-SO there in that tall eelgrass and those silty puddles.

Enough of my rambling. Enjoy.

All summers take me back to the sea. There in the long eelgrass, like birds’ eggs waiting to be hatched, my brothers and sister and I sit, grasses higher than our heads, arms and legs like thicker versions of the grass waving in the wind, looking up at the blue washed sky. My mother is gathering food for dinner: clams and mussels and the sharply salty greens that grow by the shore. It is warm enough to lie here in the little silty puddles like bathwater left in the tub after the plug has been pulled. It is the beginning of July and we have two months to live out the long, nurturing days, watching the geese and the saltwater swans and the tides as they are today, slipping out, out as the moon pulls the other three seasons far away wherever it takes things. Out past the planets, far away from Uranus and the edge of our solar system, into the brilliantly lit dark where the things we don’t know about yet reside. Out past my childhood, out past the ghosts, out past the breakwater of the stars. Like the silvery lace curtains of my bedroom being drawn from my window, letting in light, so the moon gently pulls back the layers of the year, leaving the best part open and free. So summer comes to me.

Ah. Beautiful, huh? Doesn’t that so easily talk you into reading the rest of it?

Thus ends my Quickie Post in Grand Appreciation of a Great Opening Paragraph.

11 comments to “Aaaahhh, Summer in December”

  1. Wow! Just. Wow.

    Thanks Jules. I think this is another one for my Christmas present list.

  2. Neat! Just ordered it, and this reminded me to order some of her other books too.

  3. And that settles it: got to read some of this chick. Wow.

  4. I think it needs a bit of editing.

  5. Thanks, you all.

    O! TADMACK! Are you telling me you’ve never read Everything on a Waffle? You’re in for a real treat, pun intended. Horvath is something. I’m also quite fond of The Canning Season.

    Jane, hee. My rambly intro is what needs editing, I tell ya.

  6. ::snorts::
    Okay, that merited a very loud out loud laugh.

    No — I’ve NEVER read anything from this lady. And you know, everyone has been really encouraging about all the good reasons to give books, and so that’s ALL I’m giving and one to myself, I think.

  7. Thank you so much!! Big Horvath fan here, but haven’t read this one yet. Beautiful opening.

  8. vivid imagery, such longing, such beauty, even a bit of mystery

    What nearly every writer would die to produce, right there. Between that ecstatic summary and the opening paragraph itself — with or without the editing Jane suggests — I’m so jealous of Ms. Horvath I could spit. 🙂

    Hmm… Do I dare suggest another occasional series: “Seven(ish) Impossible Opening Paragraphs”?

  9. Dude, that is lovely. Do keep me posted on how the rest of the book goes.

  10. Well, I’m the editor, and I’m curious to know what Jane thinks needs editing. Honestly, I think Polly’s writing is beautiful here just the way it is.

  11. Hi, Anne. I got the distinct impression that Jane was kidding, that she truly found the excerpt to be beautiful. Or I wouldn’t have “hee-hee”ed over her comment. I could be wrong, but I read it as a very understated joke.

    Thanks for stopping by. The book is beautiful.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.