Monday, January 29, 2007

Review: Set in Stone by Linda Newbery

SET IN STONE is a rather difficult story to explain, but I shall do the best I can.

Samuel Godwin, a young artist, has no idea what he is getting into when he accepts the job of art tutor to the teenaged daughters of Mr. Ernest Farrow. Moving to the grand house of his employer, Fourwinds, he comes to care for Juliana and Marianne Farrow, the two motherless girls, but also their governess and companion, Charlotte Agnew.

The beautiful house and its mysterious inhabitants hide many, many secrets which Samuel will soon discover, and much of the story is devoted to these discoveries. However, a big part of it is also how the household moves on after the tragedies of the past. Even those tragedies, however, are not what they seem. At Fourwinds, nothing is what it seems to be.

This beautifully written story is haunting and tragic, sure to captivate readers and keep them interested throughout it all. The suspenseful narrative switches back and forth between the perspectives of Samuel and Charlotte; this is an interesting way of telling the story, but not essential to the marvelous novel. The characters are magnificent and realistically portrayed, the plot well-crafted, and every aspect of the story excellent! It is a romantic, tragic, dark, and yet hopeful tale of lies, mysteries, and secrets that will capture readers’ imaginations and hearts, surely gaining Linda Newbery a new fan of anyone who picks it up despite the fact that no description written will do justice to this magnificent book.

SET IN STONE is good enough to gain itself a place in English classrooms, certainly--but it’s also a story that will entrance teenaged readers, unlike most of that which is thrust into their hands by teachers who make them into the reluctant readers they are.

While it is historical fiction, with most of the story taking place in the year 1898, the history is not the important part. Certainly, the time period in which it is set plays a part, as does all of the setting, but it does not make the story what it is. In this way, it reminded me a bit of Celia Rees’ THE WISH HOUSE (another one for anyone looking for a wonderful novel). SET IN STONE is a stunning tale by a brilliant author whose backlist I will surely be looking up!

Rating: 10/10

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