Friday, 15 May 2009

REVIEWS by Adèle Geras

THE DROWNING GIRL by Margaret Leroy Mira pbk

This book is perfect for anyone wanting an intriguing story which is also well-written and moving. The best thing about it is the description of the relationship between a single mother, Grace, and her daughter Sylvie, told from the point of view of the mother. I've rarely read such an accurate and touching account of what it's like to be in charge of a child whom you love but cannot really understand.

The reason for this lack of understanding is spooky and Leroy does the spookiness brilliantly. Sylvie is constantly making all kinds of references to things she can't possibly know and her mother becomes increasingly concerned. The second part of the story becomes much more like a traditional thriller where both we and Grace try to discover what happened in the past and what crimes have been committed and who committed them, and so forth. Most importantly, we discover the truth about what seems to be some kind of otherworldly knowledge in the mind of a very young girl.

The story is told in the present tense and the first person and while normally I take a bit of time to get used to that, in this case it's handled well and you believe in both Grace and Sylvie and what happens to both of them. The incidental detail of life for them (playgroups, doctor's surgeries etc) is also cleverly done and the florist's shop where Grace works (based on an actual shop) is so real you feel you can step into it and buy some flowers. This is a really enjoyable book and perfect holiday reading.

PLAGUE OF MONDAYS by Sally Prue. OUP pbk.

Full disclosure. Sally Prue has dedicated this book to me and I am a friend of hers. If I had to restrict my reviews to children's writers whom I didn't know personally, I would be severely limited in what I could write about. As I've said before, I can't help it if my friends write good books. I still feel it's important in these days of shrinking review space in the papers to bring excellent novels to the notice of everyone who doesn't know them and I ask you to accept my word that I would never praise a book I didn't genuinely admire.

Sally Prue's novel Cold Tom won the Branford Boase award and a Smarties prize and since then she's written several interesting and unusual books. She's an original, by which I mean, her books are not like anyone else's I can think of, though of course they have some things in common with some other books. She is funny, and clever and she has her own unusual slant on most things.

Plague of Mondays is the third novel in the Truth Sayer sequence which started with The Truth Sayer and continued with March of the Owlmen. Nian is the eponymous Truth Sayer and the story concerns the doings of interlocking worlds which somehow mesh and overlap with one another in various strange ways. He has to overcome all kinds of difficulties in a neighbouring world, but his problem is that he's locked into a kind of Groundhog Day scenario where one Monday succeeds another. I've been chided for giving away too much in these reviews so I'll only say, read it and see what happens. It's very exciting and funny and one moreover for both boys and girls. The cover art is stunning and also relevant to the story, which doesn't always happen. If you enjoy this book, do go back and try the earlier novels in the sequence and Prue's other work, too.

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