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

Thursday, February 08, 2018

2018/01: Nightbird -- Alice Hoffman

We were really very normal people, despite ...the curse and the way we were so solitary. I wondered if all monsters were so ordinary in their day-to-day lives. [p. 82]
Twig Fowler is twelve years old and lives in Sidwell, an idyllic small town somewhere in Massachussetts that's famous for its apples. Twig lives with her mother, and the brother who she's forbidden to mention to anyone -- especially the Hall girls, who are descended from the witch who cursed the Fowler family two hundred years ago.

Sidwell does have monsters, too: they keep showing up on the graffiti around town, with the message 'Don't take our home away'. And there are disturbing rumours of a flying creature glimpsed by night. And of course there's the Sidwell Witch, memorialised in a play that's performed annually by the children of Sidwell.

Twig, who is horribly lonely at the beginning of the novel, blossoms in her new friendship with Julia Hall: and it turns out that Julia and her sister Agate, and the mysterious Mr Rose, may hold the keys to several Sidwell mysteries.

This is a short, sweet novel about friendship, magic, unspoken secrets and the power of the past. It's also, if you look sideways at it, about parental pressure -- perhaps even mental health issues -- and how they can affect parent and child alike. Twig's upbringing has shrivelled her social confidence: she's as much a victim of the family curse as anyone.

Hoffman's writing is simple and evocative. I think this novel may be aimed at a young adult audience: I found it a delightful read, though it was over too quickly.

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