on 20 April 2000
This is a captivating book, by the author of "Moon Tiger' one of the best books I've ever read. In this book, we see the relationship between Clare Mayfield, who lives with her aunts in Norham Gardens, in North Oxford. The aunts, highly intelligent old ladies,are distanced from the day to day economic necessities of everyday life, and Clare takes on these problems. She discovers a tamburan in the attic, and the past of this relic is described in notes above each chapter. As she encounters more worries about the aunts and their health, she becomes more absorbed in the lives of the people who carved the tamburan. Eventually everything becomes very difficult for her and she needs to be rescued from her plight and the plight of the tamburan......
on 30 December 2000
This book, ostensibly for young people but interesting to adults too, is a subtle account of a young girl's struggle to accept the unpredictability of life. She has lost both parents at eight and now lives with very elderly aunts: she is terrified of losing them too. The book contrasts the anthropology of the past with the multiculturalism of the present and attacks the 'fencing off' of the young,the old or any other group. The aunts are really beautifully drawn and so are the other characters. The book deals with time, history, the importance of memory and concludes that loss can be contained and faced. It shows an unusual family configuration that still provides what the child needs. Altogether a subtle and reflective piece.
on 19 November 2012
This book is one of Lively's best for older children and adults. She writes with a very subtle touch but the characters are vivid and believable. The young heroine, Clare, is struggling to come to terms with losses and potential losses in her life. Meanwhile, an intriguing subtext of native spirituality and identity is skilfully woven through the story. I highly recommend this compelling book.
on 31 July 2000
I live in Norham Gardens where this book is set and I loved the way Lively recreated the old atmosphere of North Oxford. This book is for kids but Clare, the lead character, is mature and intelligent and through her Lively evokes an easily imagined world and perspective. I wish that they would reprint this book, if only just so the huge numbers of my friends at College in Norham Gardens could buy it.