Review Blog

Aug 11 2010

Montacute House by Lucy Jago

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Bloomsbury, 2010. ISBN 9781408803776. (Age 11+) Recommended. Cess is a 13-year-old girl who looks after the hens at Montacute House. One day she finds a beautiful necklace in one of the hens' nests and wonders how it got there. Fearful of being accused of stealing it, she hides it away. Meanwhile a boy's blackened and blistered body has been found and her friend William has gone missing. She suspects that there is a connection between the two occurrences and decides to see if she can find out what is happening to the young boys. Jago's clever imagery and excellent research make 16th century England, the religious differences found in society, the class structure, poverty and the populace's fear of witches come alive for the reader. Montacute House, where the action is set, is a real house in Somerset and it is obvious that the author is well acquainted with it. Her descriptions of Cess looking after the hens, the town market and the inns are really vivid and remained in my mind long after I finished the book, as did the images of witchcraft. I was intrigued by the mystery in this book, the power of witchcraft and the well-developed character of Cess. In some ways it reminded me of books I loved as a child. I adored the stories where the heroine was brave and intrepid, solved the mystery and found a place for herself and this is one such book. I feel sure that girls will love it. It contains all the elements of a good story: a touch of romance, evil characters, hidden crypts, ghastly experiments and political intrigues. Pat Pledger

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