Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Seeing by Diana Hendry

Pages - 176
Published by The Bodley Head, an imprint of Random House Children's Books on the 5th of July 2012
Book kindly sent by publisher for an honest review.

The pills don't help. It's been three weeks now and every night it's the same. I'm trying to stop it all happening and I can't. The fire's eating up the whole beach. Even the sea can't put it out, can't even reach it. 

Goodreads Summary
Nothing ever seems to happen in the quiet, respectable seaside town of Norton. The war is over, and everyone's thrilled to be living peacefully - everyone but thirteen-year-old Lizzie, who's so bored she feels like she could scream. Until wild, dangerous, break-all-the-rules Natalie arrives. Lizzie is drawn irresistibly to the exciting new girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and as the girls grow closer over the summer, Lizzie discovers a new side to the town - and to herself - that she had never imagined before.
Natalie and her young brother, Philip, let Lizzie in on a secret. Despite what everyone thinks, the danger of war is still hanging over them. Philip has a 'second sight', and all around him he sees evil: apparently innocent people, hiding in this quiet town until the time is right for revenge. Natalie and Philip call them 'Left-Over Nazis'. It's up to them to root these people out and force them out of Norton. Lizzie is swept up in what begins as an exciting game, but as the children begin to target their neighbours, the consequences of Philip's 'gift' spiral quickly out of control.
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Well this is a slightly disturbing story isn't it. One to make you think! One that may change the way you look at children who you believe to be innocent! 
I had been desperate to read this book since I first heard about it last year at the RHCB blogger brunch. For a start, the cover really draws you in, you get the sense straight away that this book isn't set in modern times. The added sepia really dates the cover to the appropriate time. 
This book is set a few years after the war and straight away you sense the relief among the adults that life can now move on and improve. No more rations and learning to live with out - a time to prosper and put the past behind them. However the past isn't as easy to hide as they think. The thoughts and feelings that kept them sleepless through the war have managed to weave their way through the recent years into the minds of the children. Like invisible threads, the children are living with the after effects of the war. The stories they have heard concerning the atrocities of war now plague their dreams and imagination, like a ripple effect.
Natalie is a complex child that appears to be enigmatic to begin with. She commands attention and praise,   quickly entrancing Lizzie and weaving her into her web of evil. She is the kind of child that makes you feel uneasy, you know there is something not quite so lovely hiding behind the facade.    While the centre of attention, she convinces Lizzie and Philip to help her victimise adults purely because Philip really didn't like the look of them. Yet she has managed to brain wash Lizzie to a certain extent to believe they are really 'left-over Nazis' from the war, waiting to take revenge. Lizzie is quite young for her age, and has been wrapped in cotton wool for most of her life, so she instantly believes the world wise Natalie; she is in awe of Natalie and cannot see any flaws in her character until the arrival of Hugo, which causes cracks to appear in Natalie's image.The dynamics of the trio, intrigued me; how Natalie overpowered the other  two, until someone more enigmatic stepped in, lowering her control.
Hugo becomes the centre of the world for both Lizzie and Philip. They both adore him, leaving Natalie out in the cold. Natalie becomes consumed by jealousy which is her undoing and leads to tragedy. 
This may be a small book, but it is powerful and  packed with atmosphere. The writing is poignant and yet worrying at times, as you see the lengths some children will go to when the green eyed monster takes hold. 
The setting is very realistic. I felt like I had just stepped into a street just after the war. Everything just came alive under the magical wand of Diana Hendry. I loved the way the book was set out to include letters and diary entries from the other characters to give a fuller picture of how the events of the book occurred.
This is definitely a book I would recommend, however it is so different from anything I have read in a long time, I couldn't say who it would suit. Just read it!

3 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this book too, Viv - if enjoyed is the right word. I know what you mean about stepping into the world Hendry's created. I felt like a voyeur - and that was spooky.

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  2. Even the cover is somehow creepy though in a very understated way.

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  3. Wow!! It does sound frightening and the cover is very catching. I love books that portray a very tangible atmosphere.

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