It’s no secret that I am a huge Emma Carroll fan girl! Not only is she a lovely person her books are always wonderful!
You can find out more about Emma’s books in these previous guest posts on Tales….
Strange Star is the breathtaking new book from Emma Carroll, the critically-acclaimed author of Frost Hollow Hall, The Girl Who Walked On Air, In Darkling Wood and The Snow Sister, is a deliciously creepy story inspired by the creation of Frankenstein, and is brought to life by a leading talent in children’s literature.
So when the lovely Perdita Cargill, co author of Waiting For Callback asked if I would feature a guest review of Strange Star I jumped at the chance!
They were coming tonight to tell ghost stories. ‘A tale to freeze the blood,’ was the only rule.
Switzerland, 1816. On a stormy summer night, Lord Byron and his guests are gathered round the fire. Felix, their serving boy, can’t wait to hear their creepy tales. Yet real life is about to take a chilling turn- more chilling than any tale. Frantic pounding at the front door reveals a stranger, a girl covered in the most unusual scars. She claims to be looking for her sister, supposedly snatched from England by a woman called Mary Shelley. Someone else has followed her here too, she says. And the girl is terrified.
Review Of Strange Star By Perdita Cargill
**Please note this review is as spoiler free as possible**
I’m a huge fan of Emma Carroll’s writing and her latest novel Strange Star recently published by Faber & Faber is my favourite so far. Powerful and moving, it’s electric with intelligence and humanity.
The writing is of course absolutely assured, beautiful and sensory (‘Change was coming. You could smell it in the air, all sharp and peppery like radishes.’), never slowing down the fast drive of Carroll’s big, complex story about death and life and prejudice and bravery. This is a middle grade novel that has huge respect for its young readers and their ability to rise to serious issues and clever ideas and to be thrilled and scared along the way.
Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as well as the true story of that book’s stormy genesis, there are roles for Lord Byron, for Claire Clairmont, Polidori and the Shelleys, ‘As individuals they were interesting enough, but together their sparks became flames’. Mary Shelley especially is key to Carroll’s story, the scene where she relives the failed efforts or missed chance to resuscitate her premature baby is heartbreaking and sets up one of the big themes of the book ‘”there would always be those that couldn’t be saved.’ But the ‘ghost’ that knocks at the door on the night of the storm is not a figment of any of the stellar imaginations in the Villa Diodati but is Lizzie Appelby ‘There’d been no need for tales to freeze the blood. Not when real life had brought death to the front doors.’ and this clever framing makes the story that Lizzie tells the ‘true’ story. Lizzie has travelled to Switzerland from her home in Somersetshire and what’s been going on at Eden Manor has been so shivers-down-the-spine dark that it would be no surprise were Lizzie running away but no, she’s running to the rescue. I have to be careful here to give nothing away, I didn’t know what was coming and had all the thrill of turning pages and gasping. All I will say is that the monsters in this book are subtle monsters. A clever woman who’s made monstrous by ambition, and an animal whose raw, brute threat is abused by adults. And Carroll gives a powerful message about prejudice and the ignorant, fearful and misguided response to that which is perceived as different. This is strong stuff, readers who’ve come to love and respect Lizzie and Felix will be outraged that they be judged on their skin and appearance. But dark and thrilling though this book is, the message running through its pages is one of hope, Lizzie has learned the myth of the Phoenix from her mother, ‘In the story they rise up from the flames, just to prove that even when everything’s destroyed, life can begin again,’ and Carroll hopes for her readers a better less prejudiced, braver future where ambition doesn’t need to destroy kindness and goodness.
I loved this book.
You can buy a copy of Strange Star here
About Emma Carroll
When I’m not writing books, I’m reading them. For many years I was an English teacher in a secondary school in Devon. Nowadays, I write full time. It’s my absolute dream-come-true job!
As a child, I wrote stories about ponies and pop stars, though not together. Nowadays it’s called fan-fiction; back then it was just weird.
After school, I worked as a reporter on a local newspaper. From there I went to university to study English Literature. After backpacking around the Middle East, South America, Australia, I did a PGCE in English and became a teacher.
Many years later, I bought myself a lovely big notebook and some new pens. I enrolled on the MA Writing For Young People at Bath Spa University, and got writing again. ‘Frost Hollow Hall’ was started on the MA course. It is my first novel, and took two years and many cups of tea to write.
I live in the Somerset hills with my husband and two Jack Russell terriers.
You can find out more about Emma Carroll on her website – www.emmacarrollauthor.wordpress.com
Or why not follow her on twitter using @emmac2603
About Perdita Cargill
Perdita Cargill is co-author of Waiting For Call back with Honor Cargill and are a mother and daughter writing team living in North London. Perdita used to be a barrister; Honor is studying for her A levels. Once they’d discovered the secret of mother/daughter collaboration (separate rooms and cake) writing Waiting for Callback together was enormous fun. Honor’s (limited) experience as a child actor gave them lots of funny material for their novels.
When Elektra is discovered by an acting agent, she imagines Oscar glory can’t be far away, but instead lurches from one cringe-worthy moment to the next! Just how many times can you be rejected for the part of ‘Dead Girl Number Three’ without losing hope? And who knew that actors were actually supposed to be multi-lingual, play seven instruments and be trained in a variety of circus skills?
Off-stage things aren’t going well either – she’s fallen out with her best friend, remains firmly in the friend-zone with her crush and her parents are driving her crazy. One way or another, Elektra’s life is now spent waiting for the phone to ring – waiting for callback.
Can an average girl-next-door like Elektra really make it in the world of luvvies and starlets?
You can buy a copy of Waiting For Callback here
A huge thank you to Perdita for a fab guest post review and for asking me to feature it!
Have you read Strange Star? What did you think? Have you read any of Emma Carroll’s other books? Do you have a favourite? Have you read Waiting For Callback? I would love to hear from you! Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of this review or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy!