In an attempt to distance herself from real life, Hero acts out fairy tale fantasies in the overgrown garden of a neighbouring mansion. Miss Credence, the owner, becomes a part of Hero's imaginings but soon, Hero realizes that her fantasy is taking her along an increasingly dark and sinister path.
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Gr. 7^-10. Mahy's new novel tells of a young woman's quest for individuality and personal power. Hero, the narrator, is the third child of four. Her mother is a university professor famous for her child-rearing theories; her father is a househusband. Mahy makes frequent reference to the invisible technological web descending over us all (computers, modems), yet in the past three years, Hero has spoken aloud only to her older brother, only when they are alone. In her narrative, Hero differentiates between her real life, or the life she lives with her family, and her true (inner and partly invented) life. Exploring the forest of a nearby mansion, Hero encounters the eccentric Miss Credence, who offers the girl a gardening and housekeeping job. Hero, who has heard thin cries that melt into nothing near Miss Credence's house, hears them again while dusting the study. Inexorably drawn by a series of clues that piques her inquisitiveness, Hero uncovers Miss Credence's terrible secret--her teenage daughter, chained since infancy to a bed in a locked tower. Mahy weaves into the story Hero's love of fairy tales, including "Jorinda and Joringel" and "Bluebeard," with a victim reminiscent of Rochester's wife in Jane Eyre. The language of Mahy's novel and its themes, which span a wide range of human experience--forced alienation, madness, personally chosen silence, the intricacies of family life, the plugging into our contemporary electronic hive--demand a thoughtful reader. However, the story's gothic tone and vivid sense of impending menace as well as Hero's quest for identity will pull motivated readers into Mahy's enthralling and beautifully written novel. Merri MonksFrom School Library Journal:
Grade 6 Up?This intriguing novel will be welcomed by Mahy's fans and by those who enjoy thought-provoking fiction. She touches on various topics including family dynamics, child abuse, and gender roles, while simultaneously exploring themes of self-realization and individuation. Hero, the narrator, reflects on her 12th year when a series of unusual events changed her life. At home, the abrupt return of her older sister, Ginevra, creates both joy and stress in the Rapper family. Meanwhile, Hero's leafy hideaway in the parklike grounds of a neighboring house becomes the setting for a parttime job as well as the scene of violence and despair. Working as a gardener for the eccentric Miss Credence, Hero is at first unaware of the misery and madness that surround her. Skillful foreshadowing, however, prepares readers for the book's shocking revelations. Parallels between Ginevra and Miss Credence, neither of whom were able to live up to their parents' unrealistic expectations; and between Hero, mute by choice, and Jorinda, Miss Credence's unacknowledged daughter who is locked in silence by severe neglect and possible brain damage, provide plenty of food for thought as the story builds to a crescendo. Despite the serious subject matter, the book is neither grim nor hopeless. Hero finds the strength to communicate verbally again and to resist her unintentionally overbearing mother as she develops her own personality and values. Deft characterization, smooth writing, and a totally original and absorbing worldview make this another fine book by the versatile Mahy.?Lisa Dennis, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
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Book Description Puffin Books, 1997. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110140378030