This is an exceptional story that has been written exceptionally well. As the story progresses, each of the characters adds a chapter, giving an immediacy to the reading, and an instant understanding of how each person reacts to the circumstances their family is involved in. The story begins with a family in an Australian outback town, and then moves to a huge old house in London.
The beginning pages show a happy and busy family. Mum, Dad and five children all live together in a tiny cottage on a farm. Else is having a major problem with her music. She is quite gifted and identifies herself as a violinist rather than a girl. Clancy is the older brother, and he has problems with girls and teasing. The twins are happy playing together, while Sibbi, the four year old is a contented child who has free run off the farm.
Money is always short. Mum is studying, and dad who was once a lawyer has chosen country life over business suits. A letter arrives notifying Dave that he has inherited an old home in Central London. He chats with Mum and the children, and they decide to go and claim the house and live there, as their tenancy in the cottage is coming to an end. From the beginning we realise that something has happened to the family in their new house. The introduction tells us that “Something stirs in the attic, it shudders, a cobwebbed thing, tattered and dusty.” Sibbi talks about the girls who come into her room. Now we meet Almost Annie and Hardly Alice, who write a chapter themselves.
Everyone has changed. Mum becomes totally distracted with her study; Dad is going to the lawyer’s office each day to work out the taxes and legal issues, while Sibbi becomes quieter, more withdrawn and sickly. Else who left her violin behind in Australia is depressed, and Clancy is just angry. The two outside girls have to be dealt with to restore the family to its close and united former unit.
With great imagination, and humour, the author introduces Dad’s idea of fixing things. Then Else who has found another violin takes things into her own hands. The story, the settings, the characters and the ghosts all are meshed together beautifully to make a satisfying and complete tale. One is never sure where the family is headed, or what will happen next, but the large old house must be cleared of its secrets before anyone can live in it.
It is always good to read such an imaginative and complete work.
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin Childrens|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|