Book review

Kit's Wilderness by David Almond (1999)

This is such a powerful story told in such a quiet voice that the effect is spellbinding. Kit tells us, in his own words, how he came back to live in Stoneygate where the roots of his family grow deep, and found that he had a natural affinity not only with his old grandfather, but also the other ancient rooted families and the very earth itself.

What is the nature of this affinity? Does he actually travel back in time as he enters the ancient drift mine? Is he haunted by ghosts? Or does he share some kind of present-day hysteria with his grandfather and the other local children as they see their own lives bounced back at them from the monument to the past in the local graveyard?

As with Skellig, there is a predominant theme of healing in this story. Sensitive Kit forms an unlikely alliance with John Askew, harsh and bewildered. At first dominated by Askew, Kit plays Askew's game called Death. It becomes clear that this game is a device which Askew uses to identify those who can see the ghosts who occupy the Wilderness. Kit can see them. Kit's grandad can see them. Many of the miners who worked in the pit can see them. Askew can see them, but Askew lives in a family which struggles with unemployment and drunkenness. Suspended from school and floundering without the moral support he needs, Askew is seduced by the ghosts into an emotional darkness.

Kit is waiting for the call though and he is able to guide Askew back to a new beginning through the thousands of years and the hundreds of feet of earth which overburden them both, out of the old drift mine and back into the morning light.

What can I read next?

This is beautiful work which stays with you for a long time after you turn the last page. And if you want to read more of David Almond, have a look at:

It's difficult to know how to follow a David Almond book, but you might like to look at this one, with similar subject matter, by Jonathan Stroud:

If you are a mature reader you might like the air of mystery surrounding this long novel by Jan Mark:

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