Monday 8 April 2013
Song Hunter by Sally Prue. Reviewed by Ann Turnbull
Hands up those lucky people who managed to get a ticket for the current Ice Age exhibition at the British Museum! The popularity of this exhibition shows how much appeal this vast unrecorded period of history has for us today.
I failed to get a ticket, but I did go to the museum's bookshop and buy a copy of Song Hunter. Sally Prue's new book is about Mica, one of a small family group of Neanderthals - or stonemen, as they call themselves - struggling to survive as the climate begins to change and an ice age approaches.
Mica is a teenage girl and, like any teenager, she's rebellious, her brain is developing fast and her mind is full of new ideas. She has always been different from the rest of her group, and it becomes clear that her unknown father was one of the people they call the howlmen. Her arguments with her family will be familiar to teenagers of any time, and so will the changing nature of the affection she and her childhood friend Bear feel for each other as they grow up. The dialogue is modern and colloquial, and it works well.
Mica's ideas alarm her people, who are resistant to change - even though change is essential. Mica hears the voices of the howlmen calling in the valley and finds a pebble etched by a howlman with a drawing of a reindeer. In the scene where she examines this object we share her puzzled amazement as she gradually realises what exactly the reindeer is: not, as she first thinks, a tiny living animal inside the stone, but a representation of an animal - something she has never seen, or even thought of, before.
After this experience, Mica's mind and imagination expand rapidly, and although there is plenty of danger and adventure to come, this is essentially the story of her growing awareness and understanding, and of the imaginative leaps she makes. The writing is beautiful, poetic, and full of the wonder of reality.
An attractive cover, clear font and short chapters add to the pleasure of this book. And there is a satisfying surprise towards the end of the story.
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