Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Medina Hill by Trilby Kent

Medina Hill In the interests of a totally transparent review, I’m stating up-front that Trilby is a fellow Bookfox.  I’m also going to admit that I read a very early draft of Medina Hill a long while ago, although as in all early drafts the book is much changed now.

Whew… now that’s done, I can get on with sharing my love of Medina Hill.

This is a very different book to the ones I’ve been reviewing recently.  It’s been all werewolves and vampires and teen angsty stuff and I’m not really sure how that’s happened.  It certainly hasn’t been deliberate.  At the moment the marketplace is flooded with all these black and red covered teen romance novels, some of which I love, some I… well… don’t! So,when the opportunity arose to read something completely different, I jumped at the chance and was enchanted.

Medina Hill is set in 1935. Eleven year-old Dominic Walker has lost the power of speech, his mother is ill and his father has no job. Lively, oddball Uncle Roo arrives in the midst of this downtrodden family and whisks Dominic and his young sister, Marlo to Cornwall. There, Uncle Roo and his wife run a boarding house full of lovable, eccentric residents. Dominic, discovers a book called Incredible Adventures for Boys: Colonel Lawrence and the Revolt in the Desert, and his sister, Marlo, discovers a love of cooking. During the summer months the pair find a way of life completely removed from the hardships and stresses they faced in London. Dominic becomes obsessed with Lawrence of Arabia and he gets caught up in a village war against a band of travellers after silently befriending Sancha, a one legged gypsy girl.  When Dominic eventually finds his voice he discovers that it not only sets him free but it has far reaching repercussions.Trilby Kent

Medina Hill is a superbly written historical novel for middle grade readers.  It’s marketed for teens, however I think it would appeal to readers 10 years and older. Think Michael Morpurgo or Enid Blyton-esque adventures. It’s an old fashioned tale but the concepts and ideas resonate well with children of today.  It’s about friendship, loyalty and sticking up for what you believe in.  All relevant lessons for our youngsters.  The characters in Medina Hill are absolutely wonderful, they leap off the page and I was just slightly disappointed the book wasn’t longer so we could get to know them all a bit better.  But then, I am a nosy grown-up and I do think the length was probably perfect for children.  One of the things that especially stood out for me reading Medina Hill was that it’s a book that involves every sense.  I could smell the Cornish countryside, hear the wildlife and when Marlo is on a cooking frenzy and bakes every single recipe in her book, I could taste her delicious creations…

Everything was coated with flour – even my sister. Pots, pans, and mixing bowls were piled up in the sink; breadboards, whisks, rolling pins, and labels were strewn across the counters: and on the refectory table, dozens of plates displayed a multitude of treats the likes of which I had never seen before.

“Those are blackberry tarts, next to the fairy cakes… and those are coffee biscuits, with rosebud madelines. Those are just boring old blueberry muffins,” explained Marlo, with surprising authority.

“And that?”

“What, the apricot flan? Or the butterscotch cake?”

“That one,” I pointed.

“Chestnut galette.  And chocolate loaf, lemon gateau, rubarb crumble, spice cakes… treacle duff, tipsy cake… plum pudding, cinnamon buns…” Marlo raised a finger thoughtfully to her lips, frowning. “The gooseberry clafoutis doesn’t quite look like the picture.  Or the Maderia cake.”

“Is that a Victoria sponge?”

“Mm.”

“What about that one with the cream?”

“Peach cream pie. Or these? They’re called profiteroles. That’s rosemary shortbread.”

“And trifle?”

“Raspberry,” nodded Marlo.

It was truly a majestic medley, each and every item turned out in its Sunday best.

… okay, who’s hungry now??

Medina Hill is a glorious read, full of warmth and extraordinary, vibrant characters. After picking it up, I didn’t put it down until it was finished.  If you’re looking for a book with a compelling story to give your children or grandchildren this Christmas, then look no further.  It’s all here… and it makes a refreshing change from books with black covers.

Medina Hill by Trilby Kent. Published by Tundra Books.  ISBN: 9780887768880.

About Eve Harvey

Eve Harvey is a bookaholic. She is forever to be found with her nose in a book. If there are none around then newspapers, magazines, the back of cereal packets, road signs or the tiny washing labels found on the seams of jumpers will do. Eve has a full time job as a children's bookseller. She was, in fact, the very first Waterstone's Children's Expert Bookseller in Scotland. Her first love then really has to be literature for children and teens, although she has been known to read grown-up books (not very often though - they didn't put in enough hours when they invented days). She especially loves to find brand new authors and is always on the lookout for a stunning début... Eve lives in a field just outside Edinburgh in Scotland with her daughter and son and two dogs and two rabbits. She also has some tanks of tropical fish and vows one day to start up a marine aquarium. And the day she signs her very first publishing deal she is going to celebrate by buying a pair of Horsefields tortoises. You can find Eve through her Agent, Ella Kahn at DKW Literary Agency. She's also on Twitter or on her website : EveHarvey.com

15 comments on “Medina Hill by Trilby Kent

  1. Nikki
    November 6, 2009

    There’s one thing about this site that I must complain about – it makes my reading list even longer! All I can say about this book is – sold! I’ll definitely be picking it up. And probably whipping up a batch of brownies to go with it :D

  2. annebrooke
    November 6, 2009

    Sounds fabulous – and huge well done to Trilby!
    :)

    Axxx

  3. Pingback: Let’s Tour Medina Hill: Day 5 « Talking with Tundra

  4. Pingback: Let’s Tour Medina Hill « Talking with Tundra

  5. Moira
    November 6, 2009

    Me. I’m hungry.

    Oh Trilby – I don’t NEED any more books on my TBR pile … but this just sounds wonderful. Well done, you! :D

  6. Jackie
    November 7, 2009

    What an excellent sounding debut! I like how the kids create a world inspired by books & let their imagination roam. They sound like intelligent, but not stuffy children, which would be great for kids to read about. It’s an unusual premise, but quite appealing.
    Eve, I always enjoy your heartfelt opinions & humorous asides in your reviews, this is no different. What a pleasant way to highlight Trilby’s book. Well done both of you!

  7. Trilby
    November 8, 2009

    Many thanks, ladies! And to Eve – who I think may have been the first person to tell me, way back in 2005, that the ending moved her to tears…(I hope for the right reasons!)

  8. kirstyjane
    November 8, 2009

    Congratulations Trilby! And yes, I’m hungry now…

  9. Pingback: Let’s Tour Medina Hill: Round-Up « Talking with Tundra

  10. Barbara Price
    November 14, 2009

    I reviewed the book as an Equity teacher would and I see lots of potential
    in terms of discussing Gypsies as a group and the difficulty a person has in life who can’t communicate. I donated a copy of the book to our school library so the students can enjoy it. It is well written and quite a achievement for a first novel. I am sure middle school students will enjoy it or any other student who likes to read. Congratulations to Trilby. It is a brilliant book.

  11. Trilby
    November 17, 2009

    Thanks, Kirsty. And Barbara, thanks very much indeed for donating a copy to your school library. I hope that you’re right about it helping younger readers to appreciate life as someone for whom communication is difficult. Something that isn’t mentioned in the book (as it didn’t quite mesh with the chronology) is the fact that less than a year later, George VI became king of England. He struggled with a stammer for most of his life, and people used to hold their breath through his radio addresses, terrified that he’d tie himself in knots. Despite this, his family set a valuable example to Britsons – and Londoners in particular – throughout the Second World War, proving once again that there’s much to be said for leading by example…

  12. Trilby
    November 17, 2009

    Britsons?? Britons, of course!

  13. rosyb
    November 18, 2009

    Sounds a great read, Trilby, and looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.

    The Britsons sound like an animated family – perhaps one into doffing caps and the Queen…

  14. Eve
    November 21, 2009

    Thanks everyone for your lovely comments and apologies for my late response (as usual, I blame… well, everything!).

    Thank you too Trilby and yes, it is true the ending did make me cry – in a very, very good way though. It was so heart-warming.

  15. Pingback: Smoke Portrait by Trilby Kent « Vulpes Libris

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This entry was posted on November 6, 2009 by in Entries by Eve, Fiction: children's and tagged , , , , , .

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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