Heaven: March Book Group - The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

TubbsTubbs Admin
edited July 2020 in Limbo
Pesky short months ... This month's book is The Changeover by Margaret Mahy. Teenage coming of age story, fantasy about the fight between good and evil / resisting temptation, a sister attempting to save her brother ...

I'll be back later with questions and some thoughts later.

Comments

  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    Thanks @Tubbs . I have just re-read this and loved it as much as I did when I read it in my twenties when it first came out. I was surprised at how much had stayed with me. Looking forward to the discussion.
  • GarasuGarasu Shipmate
    Since I've just finished Alchemy and am working my way through The haunting, it's obviously meant to be...
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    Oh wow, I read this when it first came out for work (review for buying it for the library) and adored it. Haven't read it in years, have to see if I can get hold of it.
  • Anymore?! I’ll post questions shortly.
  • jedijudyjedijudy Heaven Host, 8th Day Host
    I'm reading it, but am doing so slowly.
  • I’ve read it.
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    Downloaded it on my Nook, reread it, enjoyed it just as much or more so than the first time. Happy, happy, happy!
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I must read more Margaret Mahy. I have loved all the books of hers I have read. I enjoyed the whole idea in The Librarian and the Robbers about hiding things (or robbers) in alphabetical order, and moulting revolting Russian hat from The Three Legged Cat has become a family phrase.
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    Hey, what's going on with this discussion?
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    I loved reading Margaret Mahy's picture books to the 5 and 6 year olds I taught because the language is wonderful, so I as delighted to meet her when I was out with a friend who was the Children's Librarian at the City Library when she came to work there.

    I mentioned how a particular book The Dragon of an Ordinary Family caught their imaginations and how one child in particular wanted to know what happened after the book ended, so the class talked about the different ends they thought were possible. Margaret said the author only did the writing, it was the relationship between the reader and the story that became important.

    I went to her memorial service that was held in the local park because most of the city was cordoned off at the time due to the quakes.

    Her memorial in Christchurch is The Margaret Mahy Family Playground which is one of the most popular post quake structures in the city. A friend who is an engineer took his Grandchildren and enjoyed it as much as they did.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    That is lovely to hear @Huia. I'm reading Alchemy at the moment, and so far it hasn't gripped me as much as The Changeover did.
    Looking forward to the discussion.
  • TubbsTubbs Admin
    edited March 2020
    Sorry, outbreak of real life means I've only just started re-reading ...

    The big themes of the book seem to be adolescence / identity; relationships and family plus story and place so starting with some questions about that:

    The novel starts with the ‘problem’ of being made in New Zealand. How does being made in New Zealand, particularly in Gardendale , impact on characters / story?

    The Changeover is the process Laura goes through to become a witch, but each of the main characters also goes through a change of some sort in the book. Who changes? When? Why?

    The characters's understanding of the world is often shaped by fairy tales, myths etc. Which stories does Mahy use and why?


    Feel free to share other questions / thoughts as well ...
  • MiliMili Shipmate
    The novel starts with the ‘problem’ of being made in New Zealand. How does being made in New Zealand, particularly in Gardendale , impact on characters / story?

    I find this one a bit tricky to answer, having grown up in an Australian suburb not much different than Gardenvale, except not as new. Maybe a little safer when it came to crime, but we still had to look out for 'flashers' and beware of sexual predators - in the 1980s we were still pretty free compared to today's kids and allowed around the neighbourhood by 9 or 10, though we mostly played in the local streets. The shopping centre next to my high school was certainly the hang out in the 1990s and nobody was snobbish about it. I never realised people looked down on large shopping centres/malls as compared to shops in a strip or arcade when I got to university. And even then I didn't see the point.

    Laura seems like me, happy to grow up in a suburb though misses the more comfortable lifestyle the family had before her parents' divorce. Her friend Sally, who is private schooled aspires to move to a better suburb. Sorry's mother and grandmother (Winter and Miryam) and Sorry himself were the most influenced by their country home becoming part of a suburb. Sorry was born in his maternal relatives plan to stop the city sprawl and the two women seem set apart from the rest of the suburb in their large house. Sorry himself does not seem to mind living in Gardenvale and has been more influenced by being sent away into a foster care situation that turned abusive. Although he still has trauma from his past life events and trouble connecting with people and forming relationships, he has done well and become a prefect at Gardenvale school. Despite being a bit odd, he has made friends and a place for himself at the local school and done well academically.

    The Changeover is the process Laura goes through to become a witch, but each of the main characters also goes through a change of some sort in the book. Who changes? When? Why?
    I'm only covering a few characters:

    Sorry began to deal with his trauma and see that shutting people out and not caring about them to protect himself might not be the best choice in the long run.

    Laura's dad Stephen, is somewhat of a minor character, but Jacko's 'illness' reconnects him to his children and it seems he will take a bigger part in their lives from now on.

    Kate widened her horizon's beyond motherhood and her job in starting a new relationship with Chris and her relationship with Laura also changed as Laura became more independent.

    A couple of other questions:
    I found Laura and Sorry's relationship disturbing given the illegal age difference and Sorry's creepy behaviour when they first were getting to know each other. I was relieved at the end of the book that nothing illegal happened and they both acknowledged Laura wasn't ready for a serious or sexual relationship. How did others feel about their relationship?

    Kate leaves an apparently dying Jacko in hospital to go have sex with her new boyfriend who she is afraid to lose (which I found shocking and can't help judging her for). Excusable or unbelievable behaviour?
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    I found a copy at the Library, so I'll see if I can read it in time. Christchurch City Libraries have 18 copies!!! (They always buy more of local authors). :smile:
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    Thanks @Tubbs.
    The novel starts with the ‘problem’ of being made in New Zealand. How does being made in New Zealand, particularly in Gardendale , impact on characters / story?
    When I read the story when it was first published, the setting didn't make that much impression on me. I think grim 70s shopping centres were just a part of my life as were large housing estates, as I lived on one in Nottingham. I must have known the story was set in New Zealand but that didn't really seem important. From the outside, such as Laura's dad, it might seem a tough place, but from the inside it is just home.

    The Changeover is the process Laura goes through to become a witch, but each of the main characters also goes through a change of some sort in the book. Who changes? When? Why?
    The witches in this book are portrayed as people who can see deeper into the fabric of things, and tweak it to their advantage at least in a limited way. Laura is obviously a very empathetic person, but also someone who stands slightly apart, though not in as obvious way as Sorry. The changeover just made her more aware of the power she already had, as well as giving her 'magical' powers as well.I got the feeling neither Sally next door or her friend at school were as Anne Shirley would have said 'kindred spirits'. She is also mature for her age, her mother has dumped a lot of responsibility on her shoulders but she is bearing it with good grace. Sorry probably changes the most, from someone who's built a false persona to deal with the hurt, but physical and mental he's encountered in his life, into someone who is starting to become who he is really meant to be.

    The characters's understanding of the world is often shaped by fairy tales, myths etc. Which stories does Mahy use and why?
    A lot of made of the need to let people in. Braque gets entrance to Jacko when the boy puts out his hand for a stamp Winter and Miryam get access to Laura when she accepts their food, these are staples of myth. The changeover itself is very much like the trials the heroine or hero has to go through to rescue their lover. On the whole though I didn't notice very obvious references, the whole thing was subtly woven into a contemporary story.

    I found Laura and Sorry's relationship disturbing given the illegal age difference and Sorry's creepy behaviour when they first were getting to know each other. I was relieved at the end of the book that nothing illegal happened and they both acknowledged Laura wasn't ready for a serious or sexual relationship. How did others feel about their relationship?
    I noticed that more this time. Although I was in my early twenties when I first read the book I guess I was nearer in age to Laura and Sorry to think it was fairly normal behaviour. Sorry is creepy at first, but then for all his outward sophistication he is a very lost young man. Laura is a lot more mature than Sorry and her decision that she is only fourteen and there is time enough to see how things develop in the relationship seems the right one.

    Kate leaves an apparently dying Jacko in hospital to go have sex with her new boyfriend who she is afraid to lose (which I found shocking and can't help judging her for). Excusable or unbelievable behaviour?
    The behaviour seemed very believable to me, though Chris seemed almost too good to be true. In a much darker story he'd only want to be with Kate so he could groom Laura, but in this story I trusted him, he was a librarian after all! Kate is a very impulsive and disorganised person, who seems to do things and think afterwards. She obviously married Laura's dad when she was fairly young, and she had another baby she didn't really want in an attempt to keep the marriage together, something she should have realised wouldn't work. Laura is really the adult in the family, and her relationship with her little brother is totally believable.

    Above @Huia mentioned writing what happens next for The Dragon of an Ordianry Family, what do you think would happen over the next few years to Laura, Sorry and his mother and grandmother, not to mention Kate, Chris and Jacko?
  • TubbsTubbs Admin
    edited April 2020
    Well, this feels like a life time ago …

    The novel starts with the ‘problem’ of being made in New Zealand. How does being made in New Zealand, particularly in Gardendale, impact on characters / story?

    The novel seems very rooted in a particular place and I suspect that if I was more family with NZ then the locations, school system etc would resonate more. The concrete shopping centres and gotty housing estates bordering middle-class enclaves with nice gardens was relatable, but nature / woodland was a lot further away.


    The Changeover is the process Laura goes through to become a witch, but each of the main characters also goes through a change of some sort in the book. Who changes? When? Why?

    Laura becomes a witch but her mother starts seeing her as less of a child and more of an adult.

    Stephen’s relationship with children becomes closer – with him stepping up more – and Laura becomes more understanding about the end of her parent’s relationship and her dad’s new one.

    Sorry changes through sharing his experience – and being accepted – and sees his love of nature as a career opportunity rather than a bit of a dead-end.


    The characters's understanding of the world is often shaped by fairy tales, myths etc. Which stories does Mahy use and why?

    The Quest / Ordeal / Journey / Tasks are a big part of myth or fairy tales. In order to save her bother, Laura has to accept food, journey through woods and then defeat the villain. She receives help along the way from the equivalent of a fairy godmother.


    I found Laura and Sorry's relationship disturbing given the illegal age difference and Sorry's creepy behaviour when they first were getting to know each other. I was relieved at the end of the book that nothing illegal happened and they both acknowledged Laura wasn't ready for a serious or sexual relationship. How did others feel about their relationship?

    This really shows how attitudes to things have evolved since the book was written. Sorry is 17 and Laura is 14. They attend the same school. A relationship between two teenager in those circumstances would be seen as normal.

    A 17 year old boy is likely to at least ask the question. Both show a degree of maturity as when Laura says she’s not ready for that kind of relationship yet, Sorry agrees / accepts and stops applying pressure. When the book was written I doubt this part of the plot line was particularly controversial. Now it is and Sorry looks like a creep / potential sex offender.


    Kate leaves an apparently dying Jacko in hospital to go have sex with her new boyfriend who she is afraid to lose (which I found shocking and can't help judging her for). Excusable or unbelievable behaviour?

    You’ve only got to look at the way people are behaving at the moment to see that people do things that seem really strange to an outsider when they’re under a great deal of stress.


    What happens next?
    I hope that Laura grows into her powers with the help of Sorry's family and that she and Sorry make a go of things. I hope the same for the other couples too. That Jacko experiences no ill-effects from his experience and Carmody Braque is never seen or heard of again. (Carmody Braque is an absolutely chilling villain btw)

    My happy ever after ending would not a good book make though. A proper follow up might involve Carmody escaping and returning to get revenge on everyone before being defeated yet again by Laura, Sorry and Jacko who makes the journey to Witch himself.

    I remember the children's librarian shoving this one at me and insisting I read it - thanks Jean! I really enjoyed it back then and it was lovely to revisit it discover it was as good as I remembered. Not all beloved children's books work that way.
  • SarasaSarasa Shipmate
    I can imagine a sequel where Laura is the third witch with Winter and Miryam and Sorry feels left out again. Lots of misunderstandings ensue but Laura and Sorry do end up together but somewhere else. I can imagine Jacko as an impulsive teenager testing his step dad Chris and maybe a half-sibling or two thrown into the mix.
    I really loved this book both when I was in my twenties and now in my sixties. Thanks for suggesting it @Tubbs.
Sign In or Register to comment.