I was so excited to read this book. I had such high hopes – I’d fallen in love with the synopsis on Goodreads, read Claire Legrand’s awesome blog (She talks about unicorns!! I mean come on, what more could you want?) and checked my amazon order status fifty times a day. And yesterday, it came. I stayed up till the early hours of the morning reading (which was VERY brave of me – this book is creepy) and finished it on the train this morning. I’m not sure I can accurately express my feelings for this book, but I will try. Lets just say that if you like middle grade dark fantasy you need this book in your life. Summary from Goodreads.
Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does too.)
But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different. Or they don’t come out at all.
If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria—even if it means getting a little messy.
My favourite book genre is middle grade, I love it. I especially love authors who do not pander to kids, who wrap them in cotton wool and protect their dainty little ears from anyone or anything that could possibly interfere with the idea that our world is perfect. Cavendish does not patronise, it is scary and truthful and is written beautifully by debut author Claire Legrand.
Victoria Wright is our main character and she is the most precocious child, obsessed with perfection and tidiness and everything been just so. She is a great character. Everybody, I think knows a girl like Victoria, who always looks perfect and has the top marks in the class. I loved her obsession with been grown up and proper and the fact that she convinces herself that Lawrence is merely a project, when it is clear that he is very special to her. Although she has her quirks, Victoria’s heart is usually in the right place. She is determined to rescue Lawrence and defeat Miss Cavendish, and she stops at nothing to delve deeper into the mystery of the orphanage. I really liked Victoria, and I love that the message of the novel was sort of about accepting ones flaws.
Miss Cavendish was an deliciously evil villain, who seemed to have no boundaries in her quest to perfect children. She and her handyman, Mr Alice were so devious and cruel and terrifying and they really didn’t hold back. She was one of those characters that you loved to hate, and I felt myself gasping with fear every time she walked into the room (because I’m such a grown up). The other adults in the town were also terrifying with their creepy fake smiles, and I think this would have scared me the most as a kid – parents are meant to be the savers, not slightly evil and deranged.
I think the writing really elevates this novel into the stratosphere. Claire never writes shock horror, it is always subtly done, and that makes it all the more terrifying. In a relatively short novel the characters are remarkably well developed – each seem unique and separate. Cavendish reminds me of my two favourite authors, Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman, but also manages to be original at the same time. I would give this book to a kid who hates reading, because its one of those books that you can’t help but fall in love with. Utterly amazing, and I will definitely be reading and re-reading it in the future, although tonight a dark haired lady might be haunting my dreams.