No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Friday, September 01, 1995

The Haunting of Jessica Raven -- Ann Halam

Jessica Raven, a thirteen-year-old on holiday in France with her family, follows her younger brother Paddy into a strange treasure hunt - only to find herself trapped, with Paddy, in an ancient oubliette. Fortunately help is at hand; but even after the family's return to England, Jessica is haunted by dreams and visions of Jean-Luc, the boy she met on the treasure hunt - who, in turn, is pursued by the vengeful ghosts of children. Jessica's own life is not without problems; her older brother, Adam, is dying of a rare genetic disorder. Is she simply shutting out unpleasant reality and retreating into an elaborate game of make-belief? Or are her visions of Jean-Luc, and the lost Chaplet of Rochers, somehow linked to her brother's fate?

'Ann Halam' is better known as Gwyneth Jones, who has received considerable acclaim for novels such as Northwind and White Queen. The Haunting of Jessica Raven is pitched at a younger market, but the writing is still elegant, and the author doesn't 'talk down' to her intended audience. Jessica is a thoughtful and sympathetic character, with thoughts and emotions that ring true. A short novel - some scenes are, perhaps, over-terse - but not a slight one.

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