It was like this.
I saw it break cover from Spindlestone Stack and stop in the milky sea, washed in light, like one of the chapel wall saints, with its silverthread hair flying in glories. Then it waded ashore.
And just for a moment I thought it was her – Dodi Caillet – come back. That she’d found her way home. I thought it was all the years of my missing her that was making her shine like that. All the years of my wanting her, lighting up the morning. And I took a step toward her. I thought it would be me and Dodi, together again.
Like nothing ever happened.
But it wasn’t.
Mally lives on the Isle of Man, in a time when people stay close to their own and much is unexplained. Anything and anyone from otherwhere provokes suspicion and mistrust. Mally comes from a big family but she feels very different, like she doesn’t quite fit. Her brothers and sisters are brave and carefree, but she is frightened by the secrets in her world. The sea is big and terrifying and anywhere beyond her immediate home environment is even more so. Mally spends a lot of time alone evading the things that frighten her. She escapes into the caves by the sea, taking her pig Lovely with her. Only in there, with her only friend, does she feel safe. And now even that is feeling wrong. Dolyn Craig starts to follow her, saying out loud all the things that she is, and that she isn’t. She has seen spirits from the past. Mally is set spinning by the myriad frights.
Ghostheart is the third in the ‘Secrets of Carrick’ series from Ananda Braxton-Smith, although each of the three stories stand alone. There are characters in common and the landscape is the same. It’s a subsistence survival for all the islanders and they cling strongly to their land and their traditions. And their language. Like the other two novels, Ghostheartresonates with language both poetic and accessible, words and phrases that will have readers entranced: ‘…I felt myself to be some tiny fleck of foam hurled at the sky; a sanderling on the edge of the sea. A limpet unstuck. A holdfast, free-swimming.’ There are themes of belonging, guilt and responsibility. Ghostheart starts gently, enticing the reader on as an overture does, teasing the audience on as the pace and tension builds. A rewarding read for mature upper-primary and early secondary readers.
Ghostheart, Ananda Braxton-Smith Black Dog Books 2013 ISBN: 9781742032184
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author