Thursday, December 15, 2016

Book Review: Stephen Fair

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Stephen Fair

Author: Tim Wynne-Jones

Author's web site:

Date: 1998

Publisher: DK Ink

ISBN: 0-7894-2495-9

Length: 218 pages

Quote: “She had asked him one day if his recent sleeplessness was like having hamsters running around on a treadmill in his head. ‘More like gnus,’ he had said.”

Marcus and Stephen Fair lose sleep over their recurring dreams about a fire they survived. Psychiatric help—sedatives—don’t work for them. Their mother, Brenda, who doesn’t like to be called “Mom,” consults a therapist who prescribes Bach Flower Remedies (yes, that's a free link to the web site that sells them; I'm not recommending that you buy them or not buy them; you might want the link to learn what they are). Stephen doesn’t notice any benefit from the Remedies, except that, as he writes down his dreams and bonds with his school friends, he gains time for Brenda to be able to reveal the Big Secret of the boys’ earliest childhood.

Although the focus of this story is on fifteen-year-old Stephen, as an adult reader I feel that it’s another  one of those stories about children of “blended families” that are most useful for adult readers. Adults are the ones who need to think about the harm our whims can do to children.

Rather than spoil the plot I’ll say that Wynne-Jones has an interesting writing style—terse, yet richly detailed. The story unfolds through conversations but the Fairs and their friends the Skyes converse while they’re doing things: cooking, walking through the Pacific Northwest, watching classic movies. This lends sensuous appeal to what is, otherwise, a rather static story. For adults or high school students it’ll be a fast, fun read.

That's what I'd written about Stephen Fair simply on the basis of having read the book. It is a well written book; that's why, after reading it once at the library, I bought a copy. Turns out that what I have is the first edition, that there's a second edition that's selling for a penny a copy on Amazon, but that Amazon's best price on the first edition is--brace yourself--$851, for a used copy. (I mean, a duplicate copy that the library discarded and sold for a dime!) And Wynne-Jones is still alive and collecting awards...well, he's a good writer. Time for a warble about how Canadian writers who get published in the U.S. tend to be good, by any standard, but Canadian publicists tend to make them really big fish in small ponds? I don't think that's enough to explain these prices. I mean, it's not as if he were Diana Wynne Jones, although his web site mentions that being his sister's name...

Well. This web site assumes that you probably want the standard Fair Trade Books deal. Send $5 per book, $5 per package, plus $1 per online payment, to the appropriate address at the bottom of the page. If you send a postal order to the P.O. Box the post office takes care of its own surcharge, so you'd send me $10 for this book alone or up to $25 for up to four books of its size--additional copies, or different books, as you prefer. Either way, what I receive is $10, or $25, so I then send $1 per book to the author, if living, or a charity of the author's choice. What you receive is of course the second edition of Stephen Fair.

If, however, you really want to help living writers, which Heaven knows this web site needs whether Wynne-Jones does or not, you may send $865 per first edition, plus the $5 per package for shipping and in this peculiar case $10 for the online payment, and out of that I'll be delighted to send $89 to Wynne-Jones or his charity. More, if you add other books--his or anyone's--to the package.