‘Mr Hoppy lived in a small flat high up in a tall concrete building. He lived alone. He had always been a lonely man and now that he was retired from work he was more lonely than ever.’
Mr Hoppy really loves his neighbour Mrs Silver, and Mrs Silver really loves her tortoise, Alfie. One day Mrs Silver asks Mr Hoppy how to make Alfie grow, and suddenly Mr Hoppy knows the way to win her heart. With the help of a magical spell and some cabbage leaves, can Mr Hoppy be happy at last?
What I think:
This is a really beautiful romance story about two elderly neighbours, Mr Hoppy is completely in love with Mrs Silver (presumably her husband died) but just looks at her from his balcony and the only thing he can talk about is Mrs Silver’s tortoise, Alfie. The love Mrs Silver shows for her pet is beautiful, you really get the feeling that when Mr Silver died (again just guessing here) Alfie became the new love of her life and one of the only things that keeps her going. She adores this tortoise and spends all her money on making sure he had the best food and everything he might possibly need. But she’s worried about why Alfie isn’t growing, not because she wants him to be bigger but because she’s worried that he wants to be bigger and that it can’t be much fun once being 13 ounces.
Mr Hopper, in all his wisdom and desperation, decides to buy EVERY SINGLE TORTOISE IN TOWN and gradually swap them so that ‘Alfie’ will grow. This is where looking at it as an adult I find it a bit uncomfortable. It’s not like he’s asked her out and has been turned down but this slight obsession with proving himself to her is a bit uncomfortable. Although unlike ‘The Exact Opposite of Okay’ he’s not trying to prove they’d be better as a couple than friends, it is emphasised that he’s cripplingly shy and is really just looking for an excuse to talk to her rather than her going out with him. But there is a tad of expectation that because he loves her she must love him back once he’s able to get up the courage to talk to her. As a kid I didn’t notice or care about this part, and it’s not a deal breaker because I’m sure that if she turned him down he would accept it, but buying literally every tortoise seems a bit excessive. Just a bit.
Also the fact that tortoise language is just backwards and he write up a spell for her is fun, hence the title of the book ‘Esio Trot’ becomes ‘Tortoise’. As a side note when writing in tortoise language/backwards it’s a good trick to split some words up and merge others together. (‘I show not your face but your hearts desire’ becoming ‘Erised stra ehru oyt ube carfu oyt on woshi’ is a good example of this.)
Once Alfie is finally the perfect size and Mr Hopped finally gets up the courage to ask if he can go into Mrs Silver’s house and she gives him a hug in excitement. And then he plucks up the courage to ask her to marry him and she says yes. This makes me think that she probably loved him as well before all of this (because agreeing to marry someone after a handful of conversations about the size of a tortoise is extreme and stupidly implusive)
Why I read it:
In continuing my Roald Dahl marathon read I was looking forward to a nice simple book after Children of Blood and Bone. It was also part of my Easter Readathon, an extra book but also a short one. It was a bit of a palette cleaner before my next book which I knew was going to be heavy and a very different type of read.
On the whole this is a beautiful book. It’s a real surprise that Dahl wrote a children’s book about the relationship between an old couple. It’s not a normal topic for a kids book but it works. And like I said there are parts that make me feel slightly uncomfortable looking back but it doesn’t change the fact that I love this book.
It’s a gentle read about normal life, there’s no big adventure, giants, or magical powers, it’s simply about two people and a pet tortoise. In fact there are only two locations – his flat and her flat – they briefly mention all the different pet shops but that’s pretty much it.
Would I recommend: Yes, it’s an easy read and a nice gentle story.
Popsugar: A book that you borrowed/given as a gift (this was part of my library Roald Dahl haul).
Read Harder: One sitting.
I have no defence for being away for so long but I have started a new job, run my very first guiding residential (which takes a metric tonne worth of planning as well as being completely exhausting), and my laptop has died what I believe to be his final death.
However I am here and this time with a nice short story about old people and tortoises. I have also managed to make good use of my commute and lunchtimes to keep working through the TBR.
Please leave a comment and let me know what you think, it really does mean a lot especially as I’ve been so bad at updating recently.
P.S my next book is Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, by Patrick Patrick Suskind