Book review

The Candle House by Pauline Fisk (1999)

I thought this lively book was full of ideas and characters.

Venus Van Prague and her father arrive suddenly in the remote valley of Caus somewhere in darkest Shropshire and announce their intention of settling in Caus Cottage. The doubt of the villagers is soon swept away when the local Marches Council high-handedly announce their intention of turning the Caus valley into the Kynaston Country Adventure Trail. The Van Pragues join the local people as they barricade the road against the advancing council development traffic and ponder their predicament.

There seems to be a wealth of characters in this valley all struggling with their own problems. Venus herself, is rootless and directionless. There is epileptic Clem, facing up to a lifetime trapped in the valley serving behind the bar. There is Maggot, spurned and orphaned gypsy girl living with her sister in a primitive cottage carved out of the cliff wall. There are plenty of others too. This valley is thronged with larger-than-life people living blighted lives.

Now we come to the heart of the book because ghosts keep popping up to direct the activities of our floundering characters and to offer emotional support when the going gets tough. There is Humphrey Kynaston himself, the young dethroned monarch of the Kingdom of Caus turned highwayman (1593), who camps in a cave in the cliff wall and finally flies off into the darkling skies on his powerful motorbike. And there are the Kings and Queens, represented by the ancient standing stones, who materialize in front of an agitated crowd in an excellent example of mass hysteria, or genuine haunting.

It's powerfully written, and I don't deny that I enjoyed reading this book. I just felt that I could have coped much better with about half the amount of material, because a little bit of magic goes a long way. But if you fancy a lively and imaginative romp across a Shropshire valley with a bunch of rather unlikely companions then try The Candle House, and I hope you enjoy it!

What can I read next?

What to read next? If it's the ghosties you like, then Alison Prince has written a good story:

Melvin Burgess has written an excellent time travel book, rather more serious than The Candle House, but it might suit you:

And, rather surprisingly, this one by Louis Sachar has the same feel about it, and is really worth a look:

If the teenage characters attract you, you could look at this one by Susan Gates:

Or this one by Kirsty Murray:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

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