Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A Book Review by Marie-Louise Jensen

I've struggled tothink of anything to post about today. I've written another rant about bleak children's books that is more likely to annoy people than anything else, so I've merely filed it.

My own writing is in a state of uncertainty as I may be about to put a book aside that I've been working on to start a completely different one, but I don't know yet. And I'm busy with rewrites on a previous manuscript, but rewrites are really not interesting to anyone but the author.

So instead I'm going to review a book I really enjoyed a while back, which doesn't seem to me to be getting the attention it deserves in the UK.

I review a number of books a year for Write Away and get interesting and varied reads. Some of these are eagerly awaited (the latest Mary Hooper, Sally Gardner or Ann Turnbull for example) and others are books I might not otherwise have come across.

My favourite unexpected read of last year was a debut novel called The Agency: A Spy in the House, by Canadian author Y.S. Lee.

Set in murky Victorian London, this is the first of a series. The main character, Mary, was rescued from the gallows at a tender age by a group of unorthodox women who run a charity school. When Mary reaches her teen years, she is recruited to The Agency, a secret organisation which offers women of enterprise and courage a chance to do more than repressive Victorian society usually offers them: spying for a detective agency.

I thought this was a wonderfully subversive premise and it grabbed my attention at once. The adventure that followed didn't disappoint. Mary was a strong and engaging heroine, the writing was great and there was a charming romance, including an unexpected and amusing scene in - believe it or not - a wardrobe. There was also the added interest of Mary's dual heritage and her search for her mysterious father. The story was set up nicely for the sequel which will follow later this year: The Body at the Tower. I'm looking forward to it.

If you enjoy historical adventures, or know any teen girls who do, you should definitely give this one a try.


Ellen Renner said...

Thanks, Marie-Louise. Sounds like something I might enjoy.

Martina Boone said...

Thanks so much for the book suggestion. We forget as writers that we need to be exposed to great examples of writing and storytelling. Your initial comments regarding the state of your own writing gives me faith that hopscotching between projects is something we all go through. Best of luck with your current project!

Jan von Harz said...

I have been seeing this book talked about and really love spy and mystery books. Your review is has helped seal the deal thank you.

As to your rewrites, I for one love hearing about how authors rewrite their writing. It is something I feel goes to the heart of good writing. When I am teaching writing to my 8th graders it is almost impossible to get them to even reread what they have written let along revise or edit.

Unknown said...

You are the second person to recommend this to me in less than a week. Case closed. I will buy this book. You can't beat a good mystery. Thanks!