7 thoughts on “Re-reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising

  1. I can understand why you feel more uncomfortable reading these novels as a twenty-first century adult, but I think it is a shame. Feminism may have been on the rise in the seventies but there were many aspects of life and areas of society where it was still unknown. Cooper’s books were pretty reflective of the attitudes I saw around me everyday and I prefer to cut her some slack on the grounds that she was probably reflecting what she saw as well. Like you, I admired these books then and still do today, especially the second in the series, ‘The Dark is Rising’ itself. My copy is an omnibus edition and I must go and dig it out and re-read at least that novel in time for the appropriate day. We always celebrate solstice in this house and it would be a perfect run up.


    1. I didn’t mean to imply that I’m rejecting all the good things about these novels because they don’t reflect my politics, most definitely not. If anything, I find the western-centric bias for a supposedly planetwide conflict more annoying. I can see the novels’ limitations more as an adult reader (though it’s taken me thirty years to get there).


  2. I loved these, having met them as an adult interested in children’s literature. It’s always interesting when a freestanding novel turns out to have the germ of a series in it. Having to produce a “back story” may be what made Cooper write using different settings. I agree about the imperialist nature of the last round-up. Very stuck in its “New Elizabethan” era! But the strength of the children in the face of adversity and terror is admirable. J remember recommending the titles to a friend with slightly younger children than mine and one went on to work for publisher Macmillan – which was probably a coincidence!


  3. I’ve just finished re reading ‘The Dark is Rising’, and might revisit the rest of the series too, very much aware of your observations whilst doing so. I first read these in 1984, having just turned 11, when a lot of the details seemed familiar. What I really notice now is how much time Cooper spends describing rituals and traditions that have become less familiar. Leaving the tree to Christmas Eve, having a fire to burn a Yule log on, family Carol singing, there still being a family (with staff) in the Manor House. 1973 feels like it could be pre war, or even further back.

    The white centric thing is more interesting, the idea that the old ones stretch around the world makes sense, the idea that the objects of power are all British does not in that context, or that the books are so reliant on Celtic and Arthurian myths. I don’t quite share your discomfort, but i wonder now why she made it a world wide circle when she clearly wanted to play with specifically localised myth cycles.


    1. Gosh yes, that bit with the Yule log: I was amazed to read that at age 9 (in 1973) because I had never been in a house that had a log fire. I thought that was a Guide Camp thing.


  4. I reread “The Dark is Rising” at the appropriate time each year and still love it. I bought it for my sons who were 14 and 11 in 1980, so I read it as an adult. Because I am an American, I had to look up all the legends and references and in the process, I had a real education in GB history. In a way, I object to judging a book written almost 50 years ago by our 21st C values. It is easy in hindsight to find fault with portrayals and themes that were never meant when written. For an American, the British class system seems – well, British, and I think I would miss it if references were left out. Remember, Will was surprised by his father’s seeming prejudice, showing that another generation was about to change that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.