I have recently realised that MG Books that I assume I’ve included on here because they are on my “most-treasured” shelf are actually missing because I read them long before starting this blog! I shall use whatever spare time I have over the next few weeks to upload as many reviews of much-loved titles as possible. Here is one of my all-time favourite works of historical fiction: Strange Star by Emma Carroll.
The year is 1816, the setting is the parlour of Lord Byron’s Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva and Mary Godwin, her soon-to-be husband Percy Shelley, her sister Claire and a servant boy, Felix, are huddled in front of a blazing log fire as a violent storm rages outside. You couldn’t wish for a more enthralling start to a work of MG historical fiction which seeks to imagine the inspiration behind Mary Shelley’s gothic creation of Frankenstein.
Under the brilliant storytelling expertise of Emma Carroll a tale unfolds of emerging scientific discovery clashing with superstition and tradition in the nineteenth century. As with many of her books she perfectly captures the first-hand voice of a village girl in the Somerset Hills, Lizzie Appleby. This narrator recounts a story of traditional village family life disrupted by mysterious events. The nearby grand house of Eden Court is the location of unsettling activities; weird deliveries, ghastly howling noises and the disappearance of animals from the local farms! Her family members’ involvement in these events eventually tear Lizzie away from her familiar surroundings and send her on a journey overseas in search of answers.
This book is a glorious and seamless combination of science; the story behind Frankenstein; and epic story-telling. The contrast between the scientific experiments with electricity by the scientific community and the folklore and superstition in the village are brilliantly juxtaposed. I also liked the fact that Emma Carroll examines the lack of respect and attention for women scientists in the nineteenth century with their work often being credited to men in order to be taken seriously.
The story ends with the first copies of Frankenstein being sold by a bookseller in Finsbury Square in the City of London. In 2016 Strange Star was actually launched at Daunt Bookshop on Cheapside, just around the corner, an event which I was lucky enough to attend!
I have read all ten books, as well as short stories in compilations, that Emma Carroll has published and this remains my favourite of an incredible collection. I highly recommend it to anyone of 10+ who likes a spine-tingling mystery and at this time would especially recommend it to Year 6 pupils about to transition to secondary school, where there is a strong likelihood that you will study Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.