Book review: The Borrowers #5: The Borrowers Aloft by Mary Norton (Puffin Books, 1982 , from The Complete Borrowers)
The Borrowers are back – Pod, Homily and Arrietty have managed to escape from the fiendish Platters, though only by the skin of their teeth – or, more precisely, with the help of Spiller who navigated them downriver in an old knifebox. This is the fifth Borrowers story.
It took over 20 years for the final Borrowers book to come out, and if anyone knows why that is, feel free to say so in the comments, because I’m curious as to what happened.
In the fifth and final novel, the Clock family have deserted Little Fordham, because they realised that if the Platters had got to them once, odds are that when they discover their stolen little people have gone missing, the cottage in Little Fordham is where they’re going to look first.
Helped by Spiller, the Clocks go downriver and make a new home in the old rectory, and find out that Uncle Hendreary and Aunt Lupy have moved next door to the church. They also find that the rectory is already home to another Borrower, young Peagreen (Peregrine) – an Overmantel. To Homily’s surprise, he’s not as stuck-up as all the other Overmantels she’s ever met, but that might be down to him falling off the mantel as a child and being raised by a different family altogether.
Peagreen is well-read and Arrietty makes an instant friend of him. Speaking of Arrietty, she’s also glad to be reunited with her younger cousin Timmus, to whom she used to tell stories when they all lived in the gamekeeper’s cottage.
However, the Platters are still on the prowl, wanting to steal back their lost treasures …
As far as I know, there’s no epilogue to the Borrowers story, so we don’t know for sure what happens to them. What this book sets up, though, is the idea of a love triangle. Now there’s not just Spiller that Arrietty could take a romantic interest in, but also Peagreen. Personally, I’m not sure either of them are a suitable match. One’s too much of a loner and the other one … probably too brooding for someone as adventurous as Arrietty. But who knows?
Homily takes great pleasure in being able to show off their new dwellings to Aunt Lupy. Aunt Lupy, on the other hand, has toned down a lot. Not only is she thinner than she used to be, she seems to have relaxed her attitudes as well. Perhaps living in a church has done her good!
If the previous book was all about right and wrong, greed being the big wrong, this book is more about spirituality. Surprisingly so. There’s churchy Aunt Lupy, Arrietty feeling most at home when she can be outdoors, but there is also the fact that the rectory is haunted and then there’s the woman who’s a “finder”. Yup, Norton at this point has brought in a clairvoyant!
Not only that, but we find out part of the Borrowers own belief systems. For instance, they think the idea of faeries is ludicrous, but ghosts are more or less a fact of life. Sure, they might look just like humans but they can’t harm a Borrower, and so they are just accepted as something that occasionally shows up, but not anything to be afraid of.
When it comes to more religious matters, Aunt Lupy doesn’t quite grasp the idea of “the Lord”, and she’s not sure where in the church he lives exactly, and judging by the Clocks’ response to what they see as her somewhat peculiar new ways, we can safely assume that Borrowers in general aren’t prone to being religious. Which in itself is interesting.
Anyway. While we don’t know exactly what happens to the Borrowers after this last book, at least we can appreciate the fact that the Platters get exactly what’s coming to them, and that the Borrowers definitely are “avenged”. We can presume there’s a “happily ever after” as far as the two families and their friends are concerned, and that’s a nice way to end to the series.
4.5 out of 5 eyebaths.