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Thursday 22 December 2011

The Haunting of Charity Delafield by Ian Beck [Review]

Written by: Ian Beck.
Published by: RandomHouse UK.
Format: Hardback.
Released: 3rd November 2011.
Rating: 4.5/5.

Official synopsis: "A magical, enchanting tale, with stunning illustrations that will transport you into another world.

Flame-haired Charity Delafield has grown up in a vast, isolated house - most of which she is forbidden to explore - with her fiercely strict father. With only her kindly nurse, Rose, and her cat Mr Tompkins for company, she knows very little of the outside world - or of her own family's shadowy past. What she does know is that she is NEVER to go outside unsupervised. And she is NEVER to over-excite herself, because of the mysterious 'condition' that she has been told she suffers from.

But Charity has a secret. All her life, she has had the same strange dream - a dream of a dark corridor, hidden somewhere in the house. Then, one day, Charity stumbles across the corridor. It leads to a door . . . and suddenly she realises things are not quite what they seem."

Set in the heart of winter in 1903, The Haunting of Charity Delafield is an enchanting little book which takes the reader from their surroundings deep into the hidden world of Stone Green Hall and the dark, forbidding forest that surrounds it, to the unknown. All her life, Charity has wanted to know what happened to her mother, what really happened. Deep down she has never believed the story that her mother died when giving birth to her, and she is determined to get to the bottom  of the mystery.

Shunned by her father, a prisoner in her own life, Charity's day to day life is regimented and planned down near enough to the minute. She knows that she'll wake, her keeper, Rose, will set a fire, brush her hair and then it is time for lessons. Day in, day out, Rose's life is dull, and sad. She's told time after time that she has a condition, but never told what exactly that condition is. This for me really captured the time in which the book was set. Although people were no longer persecuted for being a witch, there was still a strong fear of the unexplained, the irational, or what is deemed to be irrational, and did whatever they could to avoid it. And unfortunately for Charity, it seems that her condition may be a little deeper than that of a medical nature...

But Charity knows that she is not mad. And when the riddle begins to unravel she'll stop at no cost. Along the way, she meets Silas, a young sweep-boy, he is the first person she has ever met outside of her own home, she has never left the grounds... and he helps her search around the house for clues. Before Silas, the only real friend that Charity has ever known is her cat, Mr. Tompkins who is a delightful character despite the fact that he can't talk!

While really aimed at a younger audience, I really do feel that older readers will love the story just as much too, it has a charming quality to it that draws you in and keeps you reading, especially when the book picks up in the last 50 pages when the quick-fire conclusion takes place.

This book is beautifully written. It reads so smoothly and naturally. Ian has worked done wonders with this little book alone. The words flow so well together and the illustrations at the start of each chapter have all been exquisitely made. That coupled with the beautiful cover art, with its foil effects and Christmas feel make it a perfect winter read. 

My thanks to Lauren over at Random House for my copy of this wonderful little book!

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