Some years ago I read Ascending Peculiarity, which is a collection
of interviews and profiles of Edward Gorey culled from magazines. In
one of them Gorey mentions that The Mennyms books are worth reading.
The books are by Sylvia Waugh and are about a family of life-sized
rag dolls. These dolls move and talk and live their lives, which at
first seems a bit juvenile. But the dolls are fully aware of their
unusual nature and spend quite a bit of effort managing their lives
so as not to arouse the suspicions of the humans around them. And
they are concerned with the metaphysics of their own existence which
gives the books a hook to interest an adult reader.
The first book, The Mennyms, starts when the dolls have been alive
for about forty years. The are three generations living in one
household, with another woman who lives in a closet but pretends to
be a neighbor. Sir Magnus is the bed-ridden patriarch who makes a
living writing history articles for magazines. His wife, Tulip is
the accountant of the family and makes sells knitwear to retailers
by post. Vinetta and Joshua are middle generation of the Mennyms,
and Miss Quigley is a friend of Vinetta. Joshua has a job as night
watchman, a low paid position, but the hours and loneliness of the
job are vital to his staying unrecognized. Vinetta is a stay at home
mom with two "teenagers", "ten-year-old" twins, and a baby.
This youngest generation have the most quirks, starting with their
names. Soobie is the eldest, a blue-skinned boy who spends most of
his time reading and has the least tolerance for the "pretends" of
the rest of the family. Appleby a teen girl a little younger than
Soobie. She is the most realistic looking of the family and gets
sent out for most of the shopping and post office errands. In
contrast to Soobie, she is the most interested in the "pretends".
Poopie, a boy, and Wimpey, a girl, are the twins. The baby is named
Life at 5 Brucklehurst Grove consists of pretending to be real, which
involves some real activities like cleaning, washing, and paying bills.
They live in the house that had belonged to the woman who made them,
and they maintain the utilities so that they may have electricity and
water for their cleaning and pretends and a phone to avoid face to
face contact in their business.
Plus there a great many pretend activities that start with eating and
drinking. No one ever grows, and children remain children in judgement,
so everyone just pretends to always be the same age. Appleby, for
example, spends part of each year as fifteen and part as sixteen.
Soobie, least realistic in looks, is most realistic in attitude, takes
part in few pretends — he never joins the meals — and breaks taboos
like complaining about the pretend notion that Miss Quigley lives on
Trevewick Street instead of the hall closet. The teenage judgement and
attitude of Appleby is a source of many of the conflicts that arise.
This first book also introduces a new character that springs to life
at a time when Appleby is near death. These events first introduce
the characters' attempts to come to terms with their metaphysics. At one
point Soobie ends up in church and thinks a mental prayer that at
once is agnostic and soul searching. Later books introduce complete
death and more complete understanding of themselves.
It's an engaging series that works well for tweens or as lighter fare
Final thought: Ascending Peculiarity is also a good read