Goodreads: The Borrowers
Series: The Borrowers #1
Arietty Clock and her parents Pod and Homily are Borrowers–little people who live in the homes of human beans and take what they need to survive. Pod and Homily fear the world upstairs, remembering the fate of other Borrowers who have been seen, but Arietty is tired of living alone and fearful that she and her family are the last of their kind. The arrival of a boy in the house signals the start of a new adventure for Arietty, who longs for a friend. Interacting with humans, however, even the nice ones, always means trouble.
The Borrowers introduces readers to a magical world where little people live beneath the floors and behind the walls of the homes of “human beans,” taking what they need both to survive and to furnish their homes. Lengthy descriptions of letters used as wallpaper, stamps as portraits, and match boxes as beds are as integral to the story as the characters or the plot–Mary Norton seems to want readers to inhabit this world and to make their own, just as the Borrowers do. There is something enchanting about viewing a world in miniature and, ultimately, that enchantment overshadowed the other charms of the book, at least for me.
After viewing Miyazaki’s The Secret World of Arietty, I expected The Borrowers to be the tale of a forbidden friendship that endured despite familial opposition and thwarted evil attempts to capture the Clock family. Though The Borrowers contains elements of such a friendship, I never felt that Arietty and the human boy ever really got to know each other, or understood each other. Instead, the focus remains on the Clock family, humorously drawing their foibles and poignantly recalling a time when they did not live alone but in a house full of Borrowers. It is a clever and a bittersweet portrait, and yet all I wanted was more of Arietty and her friend.
In fact, I remember little about the actual plot of The Borrowers, but instead retain only snatches of the items used to build their home. Such a lapse on my part tempts me to say that something about the story is, if not memorable, at least slightly lackluster. But this is a children’s classic we are talking about! Is it the story really not that interesting or did watching The Secret World of Arietty first simply lead me to disappointment because I expected a different reading experience?
Whatever the case may be, the more that time passes, the less inclined I feel to read the rest of the series, though I initially had vague intentions of reading the sequel. Mostly, I admit, because I hoped to see the origins of Miyazaki’s Spiller character. I suppose that the charm of the Clock family’s world was, in the end, not enough to hold me.