Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead

Flower, hi.

~~Sigh~~ The Girl Who Would Speak For The Dead. Love the title. Love the cover. Love the book? No. Deep like yes, but love? No. I would have loved it at 14 but not at 14 + a couple decades.

The genesis of the storyline is compelling. It's summertime 1925 and thirteen year old twins Michael and Emily are b-o-r-e-d. They have the luxury of boredom. Their family is well off and they have acres of freedom to enjoy. During the course of their idleness Emily figures out that by bending her ankle just so she can make a wonderfully fierce knocking sound. That's the kind of thing that can amuse a kid all day. Michael and Emily think they have found a way to make that amusement last the summer. Why not frighten the local children with conversations from beyond the grave? They could have a seance with Emily's ankle as ventriloquist for the dead. Their jump from bone cracking to the buried is a natural one. Their much loved Father was killed in The Great War and the shadow of that loss engulfs their household.

The twins enjoy scaring their friends but as their performances become more elaborate they attract the adults in the neighborhood. Soon their bilingual skills are taken out of the nursery and put into the drawing room. In a time when so many were still mourning loved ones lost in the War, Michael and Emily find themselves in demand by grieving grown-ups. Michael is thrilled by the attention and power it presents but Emily is uncomfortable and confounded by their new found importance, by the desperate needs of the adults. As the whole charade spins out of their control Emily becomes intrigued by the family secrets her "powers" are unearthing.

There is more than one strength in author Paul Elwork's writing. Emily's transformation from selfish child to sensitive teenager and coming to terms with her conflicting emotions regarding her and Michael's deceptions are mapped out in a believable and interesting fashion. Elwork's descriptions of the grief his characters are experiencing are realistic without being sentimental and contrived. The atmosphere that Elwork wraps around the novel from the lazy heat of a boring summer to the uncomfortable intensity generated by the twins' performances for the suffering is all beautifully rendered.

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead is a well written coming of age novel, but as I said before not for someone my age. I am going to pass it along to my 15 year old niece and I know that she will love it. The problem for me is the novel doesn't take that next step from telling the reader the story and telling the reader all about the characters to allowing the passion and precision of the writing to let the reader discover the those things.


No comments:

Post a Comment