Author: Lewis Buzbee
Publisher: Fiewel & Friends, 2010
Source: ARC through VOYA
This review was written in November 2010 and published to coincide with the February edition of VOYA.
Yet another reason why I love reviewing for VOYA and am so glad I am doing it again. I would never have picked this book up. I'm more of a fantasy girl (as you can see from the blog) and not so interested in mysteries or period pieces or books like this. I would have missed out on a seriously good book had VOYA not sent this to me to review.
The story opens with a young girl, Meg, lamenting the absence of her older brother. For 6 months she wondered what had happened to him, until finally she can't take it anymore and she decides to go find him. She climbs to the roof and jumps to other roofs and notices an eerie light coming from an abandoned building. While peering in a skylight she can see a séance taking place, but she's not the only one out walking the roofs and spying on the building. The famous author Charles Dickens, who happens to be a family friend, crouches next to Meg and witnesses the séance as well. She tells him of her brother's disappearance and is certain that he is participating in the séance below. Dickens and Meg decide to investigate as a team and search for both brother Orion and inspiration for Dickens' next novel.
Buzbee draws a realistic vivid picture of 19th century London and manages to capture the "feel" of a Dickens book. He has made the fictional Dickens into an interesting and likable character. The importance of the written word, the printed word, and the authors behind them shines through in this novel. In 19th century London the printed word has power and Dickens is treated like a celebrity and recognized as a Great Man. He uses that celebrity to help the plight of children (a trait based in fact as explained in an addendum to the novel called "Children and Charles Dickens"). Although the book starts with a séance, this is not a supernatural read. The haunting in the title refers to Dickens' writer's block and not being able to connect with the people of London to create a new novel. It also refers to Dickens' concern for the children of London and the harsh conditions they lived in.
I am not a big Dickens fan and have only read the novels of his I needed to read in high school. And I LOVED this book. It piqued my curiosity and I wound up researching Dickens (a little). I discovered that sure enough Buzbee had done HIS homework and events he created in his book as inspiration for Dickens appeared in Dickens' novel Our Mutual Friend. In another nod to Dickens, names of secondary characters in the book were taken from Our Mutual Friend as well.
The main story, the disappearance of Orion, is a good one, the writing is engaging and the characters are well-written. Although Dickens fans will get the most enjoyment from this book (recognizing names and places) I highly recommend The Haunting of Charles Dickens to all readers, young and old.
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