Bodley Head Children's Books
1953. When wild, dangerous, break-all-the-rules Natalie arrives in the quiet town of Norton, thirteen-year-old Lizzie is drawn irresistibly to the new girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Desperate for Natalie's friendship and respect, Lizzie soon discovers a side of the town - and of herself - that she had never imagined. As the girls grow closer, Natalie and her strange, eerie brother, Philip, reveal a shocking secret. For Philip has a second sight, and all around them he sees evil - 'left-over Nazis' lying in wait until the time is right for revenge. Natalie and Philip believe it's up to them to root these people out of Norton. Lizzie is swept up in what starts as a thrilling game - but the consequences of Philip's 'gift' quickly spiral into disaster. This is a chilling, powerful tale from Whitbread Award-winner Diana Hendry.Librarian's Book choice
This is the first book in over ten years from Whitbread award-winning novelist Diana Hendry, but the wait has been well rewarded with an outstanding, atmospheric and thought provoking story set in the immediate aftermath of World War 2.
The sepia cover image is slightly disturbing, although perfectly of the period, and it seems to encapsulate the unsettling nature of this book. It is a relatively short and yet an intense reading experience which explores the poisonous effect of wartime horror and of neglectful, harmful parenting on children's minds and behaviour.
The story is very cleverly told with the narrative by the adult Lizzie looking back on the events, interspersed with the letters sent by Hugo, a war-damaged artist seeking solace by the sea and the diaries of Natalie, who is the catalyst for the tragedy that unfolds. She is the bold and shocking rebel who is so dangerously attractive to Lizzie with her safe but boring middleclass, quiet, seaside town background.
But it is the strange Philip, younger brother of Natalie, who looks out at us from the cover and who is at the heart of the tragedy. Clearly to us he suffers from Aspergers or something similar, but that would not have been even dreamt of then. Hindsight also gives us some pity for the damaged Natalie even as we are horrified by the vicious and vengeful game she draws Lizzie into. This is deceptively simple but powerful writing that raises complex issues in an unforgettable way and would make a really rewarding class read for years 9 or 10.