May Books 19) The Sword In The Stone, by T.H. White

Another of the Retro Hugo nominees for Best Novel, which I had read long ago as a child. (NB that the version that appears as the first part of The Once And Future King has some signficant divergences from the standalone text.) I think it goes at the top of my list; it’s a humane story of magic transforming a lonely child’s life, which perhaps speaks to a lot of us, in a world where traditional social structures are not as strong as they appear and where external threats are potentially deadly – the sequence with Madam Mim, for instance, is pretty alarming (and it’s unfortunate that she is the only real female character in the book). Some of the transformation sequences – the birds and the fish, for instance – are freighted with symbolism. I had forgotten, or perhaps never noticed on previous readings decades ago, that the ending is reasonably well signalled in advance, mainly (though not exclusively) by Merlin. I suspect that Out of the Silent Planet will win, but this (just about) gets my vote.