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.
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.
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.
“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?”
“What about that one with the cream?”
“Peach cream pie. Or these? They’re called profiteroles. That’s rosemary shortbread.”
“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.