'The devil walks . . . But the devil can make no headway if he has no help. We must invite him in . . .'
Pages - 277
Published by Doubleday Childrens - an imprint of Random House Children's Books
Book kindly sent by publisher.
Right from the very beginning, my life was strange. It didn't seem that way to me, of course. I'm sure, deep down, everyone in the world believes their life rolls on the way lives are supposed to go and it's the others who are off the track. But mine was the most peculiar start because of the way I'd been raised.
It was - oh, put it bluntly, Daniel! - halfway to mad.
Daniel has spent the first years of his life raised in secrecy by his mother. When the town discovers his existence, they quickly take him away and put his mother into an asylum. With his mother gone, his only link to the past, is an intricately built doll's house.
On discovering the house is based on his mother's original home whilst growing up, his warden begins searching for the house. Eventually he finds it and brings Daniel to the attention of his Uncle Severin, who has an uncanny resemblance with a doll from the doll's house.
Uncle Severin takes Daniel to live with him, but Daniel soon realises that his uncle is being more than kind. His uncle is desperate to get his hands on the doll which Daniel believes has a life of its own. Can Daniel stop his uncle?
Oh my, this was a deliciously dark tale. From the beginning, you are quite disturbed by Daniel's mother, who appears to be quite insane. You are desperate for him to be taken out of her care and find yourself wondering a little if she suffers from Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy. Clearly, she has some issues, if she is raising her son, never to leave his bedroom and keeping him in bed night and day, convincing him that he is ill.
Luckily he is discovered by a neighbour and sent to live with the local doctor providing him with a loving home, which allows him to become stronger and healthy. Wouldn't it be nice, if we could believe that now he would be happy for ever after? Unfortunately, his step uncle Severin offers to take him in and Daniels' life really takes a turn for the worse.
Daniel is a really strong character, who just goes from strength to strength as the book progresses, allowing him to face his fears head on by the climatic scenes at the end of the book.
I am unsure of when this book is set or in which country. I am presuming it was set in Victorian times, due to the mode of transport and other aspects discussed within the book, but I couldn't definitely be sure.
I loved the richness of the prose, leading me in a gloriously Gothic tale. The book feels immensely dark from cover to cover. You get a real sense of Daniel's fear at staying in his uncle's house. His Uncle Severin keeps you on your toes as he carousels between his Jekyll and Hyde persona's. I found myself never quite sure of his intentions until the very end.
I was pleased to be able to forgive Daniel's mother as the book progressed, because I realised her reasons for her actions and knew that in the same circumstances I would do the same. Very clever writing on behalf of the author to show such different perceptions for one character.
This book touches on some very dark practices that I was surprised to find in the book, but loved reading about. Thankfully Daniel reaches out into the darkness to bring light back into the book by the end.
If you are a long term Anne Fine fan, you will know that she is an eclectic writer, so do not expect anything that you have read before. This book takes you strolling down dark and mysterious lanes, before abandoning you in the dark. A must read for all Victorian Gothic fans.