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An enthralling tale
on 25 November 2010
The first thing to say about this novel is that it's a very good read. From the first page, where a small boy called Mouse narrowly escapes being pushed out of a fourth floor window by his beastly Uncle Scrope, we are caught up in the adventures of our hero as he weaves his way between the obstacles and enemies that life puts in his way. We are in Dickensian territory here: the book's set in the nineteenth century, the characters have wonderful names like Niddle and Pyeberry ("A pair of cheering chums"), Mr Bulloughby (a headmaster who certainly wouldn't get a very good Ofsted report), and Nick Tick ("A minute but clever clockmaker"); and Mouse, like Oliver and David Copperfield, has many vicissitudes to overcome before he can come into his own.
Unlike Dickens' novels, though, this book is for children. The writing is beautiful, but it serves the purpose of the story, and everything moves along at a good lick. The chracters are colourful and vivid, and, as with Dickens, each has a poweful backstory of his or her own. This, together with the clever plotting and the lightly worn research, make for a richly extured, very satisfying novel.