by Felicity Snowden3 out of 5
Eleven year old Niall Robson is a Yorkshire lad with a vivid imagination, who retreats into a fantasy world of heroes and villains, to colour his post- war childhood. But Niall’s real world is falling apart. His Dad is out of work, his mother at the end of her tether and his sister out of her mind.
Then literally, just beyond his back door Niall makes a fascinating discovery, triggering a series of haunting events that will change his life forever.
Is it the ranting and raving of his neighbours that Niall can hear through the paper thin walls or voices from another time?
Will he solve the mystery of the handsome stranger who steals his sister’s heart?
Can he rise above the taunts and tortures he suffers at the hand of two brainless bullies?
And will he retain his sense of humour and staunch optimism in the face of adversity?
Things are looking increasingly grim in the Robson household and Niall realises that he must forego his childhood fantasies and step into the real world in order to discover the truth and find the true heroes in his life.
It is 1959, and eleven year old Niall is living in a little village in Yorkshire. There's community, family, friends, and seeing things that shouldn't be seen.
I really liked a lot of aspects of this book. It's told from Niall's perspective, and it has such an honest and innocent voice. It sounds so authentic to the time and place.
There's also the value placed on community. It is so wonderfully heart-warming to read about the people in the village helping, regardless of their own finances. About them coming together to put things right.
There's an emphasis on family life. Niall's dad struggles to feed so many mouths, but it doesn't stop them from adopting their niece and nephew, and doing everything to make their family happy.
They have their problems, mainly Niall's oldest sister Alice, who is going through a rather odd teenage phase which includes kleptomania and seeing ghosts.
I love how close Niall and Alice are, and they have this close connection and share this special gift. "A touch of the fay" as my Auntie calls it!
There's also Mr Sirtees. We all have that one teacher who really inspires you, and makes you realise there's more to learning. He encourages Niall's interest in history, which allows the story to explore some of Yorkshire's rich history.
The main thing I didn't like about the book was I felt that it lacked direction. It tried to cover too much, I think it would have had a better impact if it had been narrowed a bit.
I found the prologue unnecessary and confusing, it set the scene for something a bit spookier, with flashbacks and possible ghostness. And then it jumps into 1959 and an ordinary childhood; and only about 10% of the bulk of the story focusses on ghosts.
Instead it follows Niall, his bullies, friends, librarian, favourite teacher, father's unemployment and the consequences, job on a turkey farm, radio... It felt less like a fictional story that follows a plot, that comes along with a climax; and more like witnessing every messy and directionless detail of Niall's life.
It's kinda like Billy Elliot, but without the dancing or ultimate aim.
The minor thing, is that the punctuation and ebook formatting needs a quick edit. I don't think there was a single closing punctuation in speechmarks!
I would definitely be interested in reading more from this author!