In her debut novel Rebecca Mascull has brought together so many elements I love to find in books …..
- Female Friendship
- Ghost Story
- Coming of Age
- Love Story
….. and she has spun them into a story that is both original and engaging.
It is the story of the daughter, the only child, of a hop farmer, born in late Victorian England, told from the moment of her birth.
“When I cry out and open my eyes I see a grey blur. Within it crowds a host of faces; pale and curious, they whisper and nod. This is my first meeting with The Visitors.”
Adeliza is born with little sight, and what little she has she quickly loses. And then, the cruellest of blows, she loses her hearing to a fever. She cannot communicate with the world; she only has The Visitors. But she rages to live and to explore the world. As she grows she runs wild, beyond the control of her parents and their servants.
Her voice was so real, so clear, that I completely understood, and my heart went out to her.
One day she runs into the path of Lottie, a young hop picker, who seizes her by the hand and finds a way to communicate with Adeliza, by drawing patterns onto her hand. Adeliza’s father sees what has happened, and he takes Lottie into his household. She teaches Adeliza, she finds ways to bring her into the world. It was quite wonderful to watch that process, and to be able to share Adeliza’s joy in all that she learned and discovered.
An operation she restore Adeliza’s sight – she had cataracts – allowed her to learn and discover even for. Her joy in seeing the world that she had previously only known by touch was palpable, and so very, very moving.
Adeliza was still constrained by her lack of hearing, but she was freed by an upbringing that had been free of so many of the restrictions that would have been placed on other children of her age.
Her relationship with Lottie grew from teacher-pupil into true friendship, and their bond grew stronger as Adeliza came to understand The Visitors, and was able to give something back to her friend in a time of trial.
Adeliza’s ties with Lottie’s family would take the pair to South Africa, when her brother, Caleb, who they both loved dearly was in terrible trouble. What they discovered there, what they had to do, what they learned, made owed much to The Visitors, and it made Adeliza’s understanding of them complete.
I realised, as the story came to an end, that I had lived with her through her journey from childhood to maturity; Adeliza was an intelligent, compassionate young woman as she sailed towards a new future.
It was a wonderful story. It wasn’t perfect: there were times when things fell into place too easily, and times where practicalities were glossed over.
In the early part of the book I found it difficult to understand where Adeliza’s understanding of abstract concepts came from – though, when I think about it, I have no idea how I learned them myself.
I could understand why The Visitors were there, I could understand that they were an integral part of the story and it wouldn’t have worked with out then, sometimes their presence seemed odd. But, then again, odd can be good …..
The important thing, the thing that overrode everything else, was that I loved the heart and soul of this book.
Adeliza’s voice rang true, and her story spoke so very profoundly about the sheer wonder of being alive, about the capacity to learn and grow, and about the importance of friendship.