These Words Matter: Kesia Lupo

I’d like to say I remember the first time I read C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew, but I don’t. I was probably seven or eight, though, and I remember how my paperback copy had clearly been read a lot, even before it was mine. The spine was cracked and the pages thumbed through, slightly browned with age. Someone else had known and loved this book, and that intrigued me. I eventually owned the rest of the Narnia series, pristine and new, but this one was from a different, older set. I got it first, and loved it most.

Because I largely grew up overseas – an ‘army brat’ in one of the now-defunct military bases in Germany – England was always a little bit magic to me: a green place full of old things and mysteries. My home, the military base, was like a huge housing estate built in the 1950s. It was wonderful in its own way, to a child – the wood at the back of our garden was the scene of many adventures. But how different from the secretive houses on the Victorian London street where The Magician’s Nephew opens? It begins, “This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child.” Already, I was in a different world.

The Magician’s Nephew definitely stands apart from the other Narnia novels.

Although it’s the first book chronologically, it was written last, and features different characters. C.S. Lewis took several years to write it, longer than any of the others. It’s funnier in tone, too, and scarier. For me, it’s a heady mixture of light and dark.

Kesia Lupo

Our heroes are neighbours Polly and Digory, who meet during a cold wet summer, which compels them to explore indoors. When they stumble upon Digory’s dastardly uncle in his secret office, events take an unexpected turn. Soon, a pair of magic rings transport the children to other worlds…

One of these worlds is Charn – and whenever I speak to others who read the book as a child, we all remember being terrified of this part. ‘The Deplorable World’ is a destroyed place, uninhabited, bathed in the red light of a dying sun. In a kind of throne room, unmoving figures of the world’s past rulers sit in stasis – magically frozen but perhaps not properly dead – their faces growing crueller as they near the end of the room… And of course, there’s a bell, waiting to be struck to break the spell…

I thought carefully about what novel had moved and influenced me most as a reader – and a writer. There were many… but The Magician’s Nephew was perhaps the first. Its peculiar mixture of history and fantasy and horror gripped, terrified and fascinated me – and it’s something I’ve longed to replicate ever since. It was around the same time as reading this book that I started to write. We Are Blood and Thunder speaks to a very different audience – and yet, there’s a link: like a bell that rings in sympathy with its neighbour, breaking an old enchantment and starting a new one…

Kesia Lupo studied History at Oxford University and Creative Writing at Bath Spa. She is a senior editor at Chicken House. Kesia lives in Bristol with her husband and works as a children's book editor, writing in the mornings before work. Her debut novel, We are Blood and Thunder, published April 4, 2019.

%d bloggers like this: