First published 4th December, 2005 in StarMag
THE WHITE DARKNESS
By Geraldine McCaughrean
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 272 pages
I HAVE been in love with Titus Oates for quite a while now – which is ridiculous, since he’s been dead for 90 years.”
The reader gets a pretty clear idea what Symone, heroine of The White Darkness, is like from the first line of Geraldine McCaughrean’s latest (and, in my opinion, best thus far) novel.
Captain Lawrence “Titus” Oates, one of the men on Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated 1911 expedition to the South Pole, is not usually the sort of bloke 14-year-olds obsess about. but Symone, shy, sensitive and romantic, has neither the vocabulary nor the stomach for the preoccupations of the average 21st century adolescent. While her classmates discuss snogging and boys, she dreams about glaciers and snow storms and Oates.
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In the Guardian Unlimited yesterday, a piece about K.M. Peyton, whoseFlambards Trilogy I love.
I was introduced to the books through the telly series (when RTM used to screen British TV). I was very taken by the story of a young orphan girl who is sent to live with her uncle and two male cousins. I’m one of four sisters and attended a Convent school, and I had had crushes on various male cousins so I felt the thrill and recognised the potential of Christina’s situation.Read More »
First published 21st March, 2013 in The Star
Review by DAPHNE LEE
CODE NAME VERITY
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Electric Monkey, 451 pages
I USUALLY have to speed-read books I’m reviewing because I’m too busy to savour every sentence. Sometimes this is a blessing because not all books I review are enjoyable reads. (I usually re-read the good ones later, at a more leisurely pace.)
I knew Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity was one of the good ones from its first paragraph, though, and I actually read the first two thirds of the book fairly slowly despite never having been busier in my life. I think, despite it being a rather harrowing read, I decided that it would serve as welcome respite at the end of the day, when I’d given up on all the writing and editing, when I was dead tired and would have knocked back a gin or two if I actually drank, when I was forced to stop working because the mosquitoes were biting despite the heavily-smoking moon tigers and layers of organic repellent covering every inch of exposed skin.
This morning, despite not having to be up early on account of it being the school holidays, I woke up at 7am anyway so I could finish the book and write this review. I’m afraid I rushed through the final third of the book so I could send this column in. I also couldn’t bear any more suspense.
This is one of the many books that I didn’t get around to reading last year and so, did not include in my best of 2012 list. Otherwise, it would certainly have won the top spot. It’s even more glorious than Seraphina, which was my pick for the best of the best of 2012.
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First published on 7th June, 2009 in The Star
THE LATEST issue of The Horn Book Magazine (about books for children and young adults) contains an article by Lizza Aiken about growing up with Joan Aiken (her mother).
Joan Aiken is of course best known for her Wolves of Willoughby Chase series, set during an alternate period of English history, during which James II was never deposed. She sounds like quite an amazing woman, as was her mother, Jessie, who read and sang to her children, and was acknowledged by Aiken as intrumental in her development as a writer.
Aiken too filled her children’s lives with stories, poetry and songs. And although she had to care for a sick husband and young children, and then, when she was widowed, cope as a single parent, she still managed to support her family and write books.Read More »
First published on 19th April, 2009 in The Star
IT’S funny how one sometimes avoids reading a book for no reason other than it’s not yet the right time to read it. I know other avid readers will know what I’m talking about. It’s what keeps one buying books although dozens sit unread on one’s shelves.
I’m forever in pursuit of the perfect read – the trouble is I keep recognising potential perfect reads, future perfect reads. It’s impossible to tell which book will keep me riveted on any given day until it actually does.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (Puffin Books, 192 pages, ISBN: 978-0142414088) by Judith Kerr is a book that I have “avoided” for years. I love Kerr’s picture books, but somehow never felt inclined to pick the book up. I didn’t even see it as a “potential” good read. Goodness, was I wrong!Read More »