Ellis is losing track of time... Following her mother's marriage to a famous rock star, she moves to a crumbling old mansion in the wilds of Scotland. Far away from her friends and familiarity, waves of anxiety roll in and threaten to capsize her. But when she finds herself whisked back to the world of 1912, and meets lonely servant girl Flora, Ellis finally feels like she's home.
But living in the past might not be as perfect as it seems... and is there more to hope for in the present than she first thought? A stunning new novel which transports the reader from remote Scotland to the top deck of the Titanic.
I was drawn to this book, largely because of the cover art. It has this cool effect on the front, with ombre colours. When I read the blurb on the back, it sounded like my sort of thing. I love time-travel and hisorical settings. One of my favourite shows as a kid was Mirror Mirror, which had present day kids travelling back in time via a Mirror in the same house between periods. So the plot seemed kind of similar.
I opened the book and I started to read. Not far into it, I got spooked a bit. I'm not hugely into horror of any kind and this was getting paranormal with the eerie whispering. I had to put the book down for a bit, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to sleep. When I came back to the book I re-read the blurb and tried to reassure myself that this wasn't meant to give me the creeps. Then I dove back into the story.
It took me a bit of time to start to warm to the main character. She had some issues around anxiety, which I could relate to. However, she wasn't your typical strong girl character. She was so like me, that in ways I found it quite hard to imagine her having an adventure or being brave enough to continue to push for answers. She was also not a very good communicator and quite immature. I know, I'm an adult reading the book and I did cut her a lot of slack in that regard. She had a couple of moments of personal growth that made me like her more and then I found myself drawn further into the story.
I finished the book quite quickly once that happened. There are a few twists along the way. One I twigged to fairly fast, but the other I had no idea and it blind-sided me. After the book was over I still had so many thoughts going through my head about the characters and the unfairness of the situation. It managed to rattle me more than I thought it would. So I would say, read this in the daylight. It's not really spooky horror, but it does leave you with a lot to consider.
Books about the supernatural are fashionable right now. Modern children's literature abounds with variations on this theme, ranging from vampires (suitably sanitised for editions aimed at younger readers) to ghosts to sorcery and black magic. This book is written in the same genre but adds a couple of twists to it. It is a fast-paced, absorbing read - but I still had some unanswered questions at the end of it. Were the "ghosts" real? Or were they conjured up from the imagination of a teenager suffering from panic attacks and epilepsy-related episodes? It is this ambiguity that makes the book such compulsive reading.
Amid the references to the supernatural and teenage angst, there are also some historical references which set the context for the ghost story. I cannot refer to them here without including spoilers, and that would take away the tension, but the clues are there and a perceptive reader will probably work them out long before the ending is reached.
There is an interesting subplot about the relationship between the teenagers (Ellis and Weezy) in a blended family and the difficulties encountered as they are forced to accept each other and make allowances for the special relationship each has with one of the parents. The author deals with this sensitively but realistically; nothing is glossed over as two complete strangers vie for the attention of each other's birth parent and go to any lengths to show how superior they are. The parents are portrayed as the "good guys" who make every attempt to defuse the ill feeling and lack of trust and help their daughters to accept each other.
Add to the mix a basically decent (although highly charismatic!) teenage boy who has the maturity to relate to both girls without alienating either of them, a couple of enthusiastic and lovable sheepdogs, and a supporting cast of ghosts all with highly individual personalities (and issues), and you have a lively cast of characters that literally leap out the pages to engage the reader.
There is one final aspect of the book that is worthy of mention. There is a double-page spread featuring a ground plan of Wilderwood Hall immediately preceding Chapter 1. Because of the constant references to the layout of the hall, especially in the scenes where Ellis is moving between centuries, it provides a useful key to checking where she is. I found that, while I was reading, I flicked back on several occasions to check just where the action had moved to! Without this reference point it would have made the book far more challenging to read.
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