Gentle and Fierce is a new book of illustrated memoir essays by Vanessa Berry. 

The Sinking Horse/ The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story is, essentially, a story about a magic book. The novel's magic trick is for the protagonist's entry to a fantasy world to come through a book called The Neverending Story, which has on the cover an amulet of entwined the reader themselves holds a book called The Neverending Story, which had on the cover an amulet of entwined snakes... It worked on me. My own copy was a mass-produced paperback version of the English translation, produced in the wake of the film's success, but it seemed no less special for being so. The book as an object and the story it told wound into each other like the snakes: I felt as if I held a relic from its world.

At almost 400 pages long, it was a major undertaking for a seven year old, but I was a determined reader. I remember applying a fierce concentration to it, as if I could understand the words I didn't know by sheer force of will. The book was divided into 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet, which had an illustrated title page showing the events of the chapter to come. The events of the film went only up to chapter M, after which my reading was unguided by knowing the story, which made it more difficult but was also exciting: I always felt a lingering disappointment, when I loved a film or a book, wishing there could be more. 

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