In many ways this short little book is not my usual kind of thing at all. However I needed something light and bright after the pall cast by the sad but utterly brilliant Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont.
This novel is a cleverly written work of imagination. With more than a nod towards Lewis Carroll’s Alice, it is a surreal yet touching coming of age tale. With references galore to jam tarts, white rabbits, pocket watches, lateness and snarks, this is a book that will delight the Lewis Carroll aficionado.
Violet lives in a quirky eccentric household in Oxford. A strikingly tall girl, who started off very small as a child, she has a wonderfully close relationship with her grandfather, Julius who now lives in the basement, and once wrote a famous book. Now Julius is developing dementia and writes haiku on scraps of paper.
It was true that it was a most impractical house. Violet’s family lived in a higgledy-piggledy house with seven floors, because no two rooms were level, but each was connected by a set of stairs to the other. The house was also full of doors here and there of all shapes and sizes leading to cupboards and passages or to nowhere at all. There was not a single right angle in it. Under every piece of furniture was wedged a notebook or a folded handkerchief to stop them from wobbling on the uneven floors. Every breakable object was stuck down with glue or adhesive tape. Not even the pictures on the walls could be balanced in such a way as to hang straight.
We see the world through the eyes of a growing Violet, it’s often an odd world, a conversation with a dodo and an elephant bird at the British Museum just one example of the author’s marvellous imagery in this novel.
When Violet’s family suddenly tell her that she has lost her spark, Violet realises she must find out who it is she really is. With her grandfather slipping away into dementia – Violet is forced to do this by herself.
A quick, light read, with a poignant sweet little ending, I am glad I got to read something different, and must thank Simon for introducing me to it.