But here's an odd phenomenon: have you ever had your nostalgia glands stimulated by something that you never experienced as a child, but has so many hallmarks of your childhood that it might as well have been? That is exactly how I felt when I read Redwall by Brian Jacques.
Redwall is the story of Matthias, a sweet-natured if clumsy mouse who is a helping hand around Redwall Abbey. A rat named Cluny the Scourge, leading his army of vermin, sets up camp nearby with every intention of invading the abbey and taking it for themselves. As the approaching battle builds, Matthias takes it upon himself to follow the trail of clues around the abbey that could lead to an ancient weapon supposedly hidden within the abbey, once owned by a legendary warrior.
I read the whole of Redwall with a mix of delight and frustration. Delight because it is a fantastic and utterly charming read, and frustrated because I just knew it was the kind of book I'd have adored if I'd read it as a kid. As it was, I had to settle for enjoying it in my 20s, which frankly was more than enough.
What makes Redwall work so well is the feel of it. It simply feels like one of the old-fashioned yarns, the kind of book you'd pickup secondhand for mere pennies at a car boot sale, the pages already yellowed from being read and reread twenty times, and you'd evade your homework to go and squirrel yourself away into a hidden corner of the back garden surrounded by the smell of grass and just while away the hours lost in a story.
And it really does have that intangible quality of a bygone era about it, even if it was only written in the late 80s. The simplicity of 'good is good, bad is bad', the ever-so-slight air of well-intentioned preachiness to it, and the motley crew of quirky characters...if you have never read Redwall it will still feel like that well-thumbed book from your youth that you have long since forgotten.
And because of that, what faults you could level at Redwall actually work in its favour. What's the scaling of the creatures here? We have a badger and a mouse talking, so is that to scale as in real life or are they the same size? Or how about the fact that the adventures of Matthias, while exciting and varied, are a little bit too episodic in nature and feel rather 'solved this challenge, now onto the next'? The answer to these kinds of questions is answered in the same straight way a child would: who cares? It's fun! Now you know me: in most circumstances this is the kind of detail I would want from my books, but Redwall pushes past the cynical adult and speaks to the inner child.
We live in an age where, thanks to modern technology, old classics of all mediums from our youth that were once soon to be consigned to the void of hazy childhood memories are now safe and secure, easily accessible and given a new lease of life where it is unbelievably easy to indulge our inner child. But Redwall is a little different. More than just being a tale of yesteryear, it is an idea crystallized, capturing a certain precious atmosphere that would delight absolutely anybody.