There exist some books which you read and forget, only to faintly recall, years later, that there was this book you really liked- and have completely forgotten. Hence, I remember little about the circumstances in which I read 'Journey to the River Sea', and my frantic bouts of searching for the memory were ended only when I was gifted another copy of the book... and the writer's name.
I've long maintained that if I could, once, manage to write something that kids under ten would like I would have achieved my goals as a writer. And Ibbotson does it so effortlessly!
So, well, Countess Under the Stairs I picked up this morning- and finished in less than half a day, having neglected integration to the point of desertation. The thing about going back to children's books is the enhanced ability to note the way in which universal truths are presented with a sense of humor- sounding preachy is anathema. C. S. Lewis for instance, managed it so well I never caught on to the symbolism till much much later- by which point I wondered why I hadn't seen through the Aslan thing a lot sooner. E. Nesbit's pieces of dialogue (such as one where a boy, afraid that he's heard rats moving around, is comforted by his mother with a 'not rats, mice.") are haunting in their accuracy.
I realize I'm not getting anywhere with this review. Suffice it to say it's a fairytale, well told. And honestly, what the hell else even matters?