I rediscovered an old favourite book the other day- ‘The Wind Singer’ by William Nicholson. I don’t know if anyone else read it when they were younger, for school or just picked it up, but if not this is Amazon’s summary:
‘In Aramanth, exams are everything, deciding where people should live and what they should wear. When Kestrel rebels, her family are sentenced to the harshest punishment. In order to save them and to restore happiness to Aramanth, Kestrel knows she must restore the voice of the wind singer, an ancient statue standing in the city’s square. She embarks on this dangerous mission with Bowman, her twin, and along the way they encounter Mumpo, the silly, smelly school dunce who adores Kestrel. Their daring journey encompasses the Mudpeople, the malevolent Old Children and bloodthirsty desert tribes.’
This is a pretty basic overview of what was undeniably an incredible book. It was one of those books which just has such a profound impact on you, especially when I was a kid (I was convinced that my future children would be called Kestrel and Bowman). The trilogy just stuck with me- it was pure escapism. Plus, it only got better as it went along; ‘Slaves of the Mastery’ (book 2) shifted the whole course of the story. The final book, ‘Firesong’, had an unbelievably shocking ending- no spoilers, but it was just the sort of book where after you’d finished it, you sort of have to sit in shock for a while before you can pick anything else up.
One quote in particular stuck with me, from ‘Slaves of the Mastery’, when Bowman gives some advice:
‘You’ll never be a master to others so long as your greatest ambition is to please your own master’
Something about this quote meant that I remembered it years after reading the book. Initially it seems to be about mastery over others- I didn’t interpret it this way, but instead took it as how I thought Bowman (and Nicholson) meant it- that if you’re aspiring to have some control or authority over your own life, then that needs to be your greatest ambition, not living to please others. It’s easy to feel as if you should imitate how other people live their lives, especially if they seem to be doing it better; but if you’re merely attempting to mimic someone else’s happiness, you won’t make your own. What works for someone else might not work for you. Basically, living only to please others doesn’t get you far, and you need to assert control over yourself instead of following others.
That all sounds unbelievably cheesy now I read it through again, and I’m sorry to Nicholson for cliche-ing his awesome books. However, the point still stands that these are just incredible books, and even though they’re aimed at a younger audience, I’d recommend them to anyone. Plus, having looked up a bit more about Nicholson, it turns out he was also involved in developing Gladiator– one of the best movies ever- making him even more awesome.