This is a hauntingly sad and beautiful book about an elderly lady called Matilda who finds a mysterious child who comes to visit her one afternoon. The child stays for tea, and Matilda finds herself telling the story of her life, her loves and losses, her discoveries and the unfolding of her understanding of how the world works.
The prose is very poetic and there are some gorgeous descriptions of Matilda's life and relationships with those she loves. Hartnett has a real knack for picking unusual metaphors which work so well that you find yourself thinking about them days after you have finished reading. I turn her words over and over in my mind like pebbles on a beach. She is a spectacular writer, and it is such a shame she is not more well known.
The story is quite magical in a very melancholy way, and I found myself profoundly touched by it, and in tears several times as I read on. It really is a lovely thing.
I bought this book on the strength of the review which said that THE GHOST'S CHILD was as good as "The Alchemist". Loving Paulo Coelho's novels, I thought that was high praise and so decided I had to check this novel by Hartnett to discover if the praise was deserved. Having now finished THE GHOST'S CHILD, I can happily say that it is.
The story is about Matilda, or Maddy as she is known when she is a young girl. As an old woman who lives on her own, Matilda is surprised one day to return home and find a young boy sitting in her lounge, waiting for her. Accepting his presence in her house, Matilda makes tea for the boy before she tells him the story of her life, specifically about the time when she fell in love with a mysterious free-spirited man she called Feather. Recounting how she lived with Feather in a house by the sea, Matilda then goes on to tell the boy how eventually Feather left her alone, and how his departure prompted her to go after him to seek the answer to a quetion that haunted her on his departure.
That is all of the plot I shall give away. THE GHOST'S CHILD is the sort of book that readers should come to, knowing enough to pique their interest, but not knowing too much so as to ruin the great discovery that it is to read its words and hear its truths. Like "The Alchemist", THE GHOST'S CHILD is a fable; both the character and the reader come away from it knowing maybe more than they did previously, and this is what I loved about it. There were many sentiments and elements about Matilda during her relationship with Feather that I could recognise as my own. It felt as though the story was dipping into my heart and mind at times - in ways this was both a comfort and a source of discomfort. It speaks of what it is to be in love in ways that many books and writers have attempted and yet failed to achieve.
I cannot recommend this book enough. If you love novels which give you more than just a story - books that touch you, maybe making you understand more about the world or yourself, this novel is for you. Although THE GHOST'S CHILD is mainly aimed at younger readers, or young adults, I feel that readers of any age would enjoy this. In fact, in some ways you may need a few years on you so that you can understand and appreciate the message of the book fully.
I loved it - shall remain a favourite and has earnt itself a permanent place of my bookshelf.
Matilda comes home one day to find a young boy sitting on her sofa. They have tea, and she tells him about her past. At that time, she went by Maddy, and she longed for a fairy tale life.
When Maddy finished school, she came home to her family's house by the sea. Her father asked her what she thought the most beautiful thing in the world was. She answered, "sea eagles." Her father decided that the two of them together would travel the world in search of the world's most beautiful thing, since he was not satisfied with her answer. After their travels, she was asked the question again. And she realized that she was the answer her father was looking for.
One day when she was back home, she went to the beach. She saw a young man and found herself walking towards him, scaring away the pelican that he was holding. She went to see him every day after that. She called him Feather. She married Feather, and they moved into a cottage in the forest.
He left one day, to be at his one place where he could be happy. Maddy could not come though, he told her. Weeks after, she wondered why he went to this one place and if he was happy. She decided that she needed to know the answer, so she had a sailboat made, and she set to sea. She saw many things, and spoke to sea life. She found Feather, and got her answer.
When she got back to her home, she left the cottage, unable to live there any longer. She decided she wanted to work in the war. She nursed injured soldiers, and from there decided that she wanted to be a doctor. From then on, she was Matilda. She helped people and then began to age. She was getting older, and lived in a house by herself. She ended her days in that house.
This was a very intriguing book. I was confused with the boy, but by the last chapter, I knew exactly who he was and why he was there. The life that Maddy lived was amazing. She went through so much, and many of those things weren't so good, which is very easy to relate to. Her parents were odd. Her father wanted Maddy to be who she wanted to be, whereas her mother just wanted her daughter to marry a rich man and not care about being happy, which bothered me. Feather was also confusing. He appeared out of nowhere. I was happy they married, but unhappy when he left her.
Overall, this was a very interesting book, and was hard to put down. I enjoyed it very much.
Reviewed by: Ashley B