The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
I was reminded of this book when I recently stumbled across a excellent adaptation of it on BBC Sounds. This is the perfect time of year to read this book, with it being set in late December.
The story begins on Midwinter’s Eve, the day before Will Stanton’s birthday. All Will wants for his birthday is to wake up to a blanket of pure, white snow. Inside, his family is busily getting ready for Will’s birthday and Christmas. It’s a cosy, chaotic scene. Will is the youngest of seven children, his father also being the youngest of seven. Anyone who is part of a big family will recognise the noisy, excited atmosphere when everyone is reunited in one house.
We can contrast this with what’s happening outside. Will begins to experience strange, almost supernatural events. He senses that something is very wrong, rooks are behaving strangely, the rabbits and dogs that he feeds every day are suddenly very afraid of him. A blizzard is on its way but rather than bringing the pure, white snow that Will hopes for, to satisfy a childish longing for snowball fights and sledging, the blizzard brings with it a nightmare and Will is forced to grow up quickly. He awakes on his birthday to find his family locked in sleep.
Will is told that he belongs to a time travelling group of ancient beings, The Old Ones. He is the first to be born in 500 years and the last one. His quest is to protect everyone from the Dark, whose force is rising and will reach its peak on the Twelfth Night.
Susan Cooper creates an eerily, sensory world on the page and this is interpreted brilliantly in the podcast adaptation. It’s an intense listening experience. The producers suggest listening to it with headphones as the sound is 3D, but I found this was too much for me and reverted to speakers. Whichever way you access the story, it’s a beautiful and poetic read. It’s also a hopeful reminder that when you feel the dark is rising in real life, goodness will hold it back.
The Dark is Rising is the second of four books in The Dark is Rising Sequence. You can enjoy it on its own but the other books in the series are: Over Sea, Under Stone (#1); Greenwitch (#3) and The Grey King (#4).