A String in the Harp
This book tells the story of a family who moves to Wales after the death of the mother. Jen, Peter, and Becky, along with their dad, experience very different reactions to their new environment. Peter, the most bitter of the children, discovers a harp key which turns out to be an ancient key belonging to Taliesin, most famous of the Welsh bards. The key allows Peter to witness events in Taliesin’s life, but when Taliesin’s world starts to merge with Peter’s, both begin to unravel.
This “time-bending” fantasy tale uses a relatively rare premise, in that although Peter can witness events in Taliesin’s life, he cannot enter his world. This makes the entrance of Taliesin’s world into Peter’s all the more interesting and exciting. The book’s conclusion felt very right to me when I read it — I was surprised, yet gratified, by what happened.
Morally, the book seems at first to be somewhat questionable; the family seems rather dysfunctional, with no deep or healthy relationships. But gradually it becomes apparent that this inability to relate results from the confusion following the sudden death of the children’s mother and therefore is understandable. The book becomes a sort of reunion tale. Other than this, the book has no morally questionable elements (besides some light swearing), but no special insights.
Artistically the book is tolerable, even quite good, although not breathtaking. The book received the Newbery Honor award, and the writing certainly is good enough to merit respect.