My sister's spending XmasTM in New York but due to an ongoing health problem would have had trouble carrying her suitcase on the Tube to the airport, so yesterday I went along with her to Heathrow. I'd started reading Count Karlstein a couple of days before, but it's not a long book so the bus journey to her house and then the Tube back from Heathrow was enough for me to finish it.
Philip Pullman's first children's book, Count Karlstein went out of print but was reprinted a few years ago in the wake of his success with His Dark Materials. Rather than the ambitious epics he wrote later, this is a short, comedy fairytale about two orphan girls whose evil uncle wants to sacrifice them to a Demon Huntsman, and the plucky serving girl who may be their only hope. In Pullman's introduction he says the story started life as a school play he wrote when he was a teacher, and it certainly shows these origins. In fact it surprises me that it hasn't been turned back into a stage show - with its comedy policemen, physical comedy and outrageous coincidences that the audience/reader is always one step ahead of the characters in guessing, it seems like perfect Christmas show material, and kept me chuckling on the Piccadilly Line yesterday.