Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Forever X - Geraldine McCaughrean

What interested me the most about Geraldine McCaughrean's Forever X, is that the story is as much about Mel, as it is about Joy. It looks in detail at the reactions of a 4 year old boy suddenly confronted with a place where it is always Christmas. Mel quite happily accepts that FC is Father Christmas, even when he isn't wearing a bushy white beard. Felix Cox is quite simply the essence of Christmas at Forever Xmas, as Holly explains to Joy after Felix's death – the B&B would not have continued in business without him; indeed it does not survive after his death, since Holly's parents decide to change the name and theme of the B&B to Forever England, based on their great interest in the Second World War.

Mel's simple acceptance that Mr Angel's job and his name are the same, ie. that he is an angel in charge of Health, rather than an environmental health inspector, is also interesting – and it leads to confusion. Mel approaches Mr Angel to ask him to make FC well again, when the latter is feeling the effects of his angina. But Mr Angel misunderstands (largely because he doesn't have the patience to discover just what Mel is asking of him), and when Mel repeats FC's remark that it must be something he ate that's making him feel poorly, Mr Angel assumes the worst (food poisoning) and establishes that the turkeys are undercooked (p. 57).

The confusion caused by Mel's literal interpretation of Mr Angel's name continues when the latter, finding himself locked in his room by Joy (who believes Mel has told Mr Angel that the wanted criminal, Mr Starr, is at the B&B with his son), climbs out his window onto a tree, only to discover he cannot climb down to the ground. When Mel notices Mr Angel is in the tree, he assumes that Mr Angel has flown up there, or is resting there after flying back from seeing God. Mr Angel attempts to make Mel understand that he is stuck and Mel goes inside to tell guests that "the Angel's on the tree", but everyone assumes he's referring to the model angel on top of the Christmas tree in the dining room.

When Mel sees the police approaching the B&B shortly afterwards, he believes they have come for Mr Starr (as his sister had told him), and runs away onto the moor, not realising that the police have brought Joy back to the B&B from the seaside where she had accompanied FC as he took the Starrs to a safe haven. Mr Angel finally manages to scramble down from the tree and reveals that Mel has run up onto the moor; it is then that he discovers that Mel believed he was a literal angel and he feels the full burden of his name for the first time.

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