Tuesday, 30 August 2011
THE DEVIL WALKS by Anne Fine
You might think you know all about Anne Fine and her books. She's the wicked dissector of social mores. She's the hilarious creator of books like Bill's New Frock and Diary of a Killer Cat. She's the person who knows everything there is to know about families of every kind. She was an excellent Children's Laureate. She's a tireless promoter of good books for everyone. She's sharp and clever and witty and also, along with the precision of her analysis of relationships, tender-hearted and anxious for every unhappy child in the world.
But it doesn't do to take her for granted or think you've got her classified. She's diversified again. The proof that she can turn her hand to anything and make it her own is to be seen in her latest book, Thttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifhe Devil Walks.
If you go to Anne's website (apologies...I haven't been able to put in a link so I'm afraid you'll have to Google her!) and follow the links there to some interviews, she talks about the genesis of this novel, which is a Gothic tale of a young boy who is, as Anne puts it "horribly orphaned" and then undergoes more torments than a young lad should ever have to deal with when he's sent away from his kind adoptive family and has to live with the wicked uncle of all wicked uncles.
There are all the elements here of a great scary read. A big house. An old dolls' house, hints of voodoo and worse, possible evil residing in all kinds of unexpected places, a garden with a maze in it, hidden things, things that aren't what they seem at first: Fine deals herself a full hand of the Gothic imagery and trappings but if the book were no more than a collection of special effects, it wouldn't be the wonderful book it is.
What makes it really good is the emotional heart of the story, which deals with the way we find love in a hostile world. It tells us, among the frights we have to endure, about the persistence of goodness in opposition to evil, and of kindness and benevolence sharing the world with the dark things that abound in it. It's written in the first person in the most convincing Victorian style which nevertheless is miles away from fusty and difficult. Any child picking up this book will understand every word. The language is simple and it's precisely this simplicity which makes the the horrors appear even more frightening. A really terrific read for anyone of any age who loves a creepy tale which is more than just smoke and mirrors.
Doubleday hbk £10.99 ISBN:9780857530646
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