THE VOYAGE OF QV66 by Penelope Lively


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The People ""went when the water came"" and now England is left to the animals--six of whom journey to London (in a boat outfitted with wheels) to learn the identity of the stranger among them: Ned's a horse, Freda's a cow, Pansy's a cat, Offa is a pigeon, and ""I'm a dog, of course""--but all that's known about small, furry, People-like Stanley is that ""someone like him"" is pictured in an ad for the London Zoo; and he desperately wants to know if there are others. Even without the book's illustrations, you'd quickly take show-off Stanley for a monkey--one whose self-inflating, self-pitying antics soon wear thin. Unfortunately, each of the animals is equally type-cast--Freda with her penchant for hats and her uneasiness at ""Beefburgers,"" pussycat Pansy with her preening, Ned with his insistence on his racehorse ancestry, church-bred Offa with her quotations from Scripture. And the journey through a Manchester now ruled by neighborhood gangs of dogs (""Ancosta is all collies. . . the labradors are moving into Salford""), through Birmingham, Stratford, and Oxford is one that, in the absence of inventive incident, only British children will fully appreciate. At Stonehenge, however, there occurs a battle-royal to free Pansy, this midsummer's intended sacrifice to the sun; and once in the center of London, interest decidedly picks up: Stanley & Co. find monkey specimens at the British Museum--but do any of his kind survive? Then the wayfarers find the zoo itself ruled outrageously by monkeys, the worst of Stanley multiplied; and he, chastened, declines to join their number. A likely enough notion, but the book hasn't the wit, the pace, or the style to carry it off.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 1979
Publisher: Dutton