Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (unabridged audiobook read by Barbara Caruso; 7 hrs 15 min on 6 discs): I grew up on the movie version, and figured it was high time for me to finally read the book. Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse with four children living in a cinder block in a farmer’s garden for the winter. At the start of the story, her youngest son Timothy is ill with pneumonia and cannot leave the house. However, the plow will be coming through soon, which will destroy the cinder block and kill everyone inside. After helping a young crow named Jeremy, he takes her to see a wise owl, who tells her to ask the rats to move her house. These rats are unusually intelligent, with quite the backstory. I was a little disappointed that Mrs. Frisby never got a first name, but given that her husband’s deeds were the only reason anyone gave her the time of day, I suppose it was fitting. All in all, I liked it. The characters were compelling and the ending was satisfying, if quite bittersweet. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as a child; I was fairly sensitive when it came to the death of animals. As an adult, however, I found it to be a fascinating exploration of how a wild animal would deal with newfound intelligence. Recommended.

A note on the audio version: Caruso, unfortunately, narrates as if she were reading to a small child with a learning disability, adding lengthy pauses between each and every clause. It took me well into the second disc before I got used to her cadence. Once I did, however, I had no trouble getting into the story.

A note on the movie: The first half or so of the movie is quite true to the book, but it adds a mystical element in the form of a magic amulet. This is completely out of left field, but it does help Mrs. Brisby (changed from Frisby at the insistence of the makers of Frisbee) come out looking more like the hero of the tale. The book is also much less clear-cut: there are no true villains, and you don’t even know for sure who’s still alive at the end. That’s not to say one is better than the other, of course; I enjoy both book and movie for what they are.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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