Winner of the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize
1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children, and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.
Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end, which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.
Her life is reduced to a piano that makes music but no sound and a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is everything.
"Like all good fairy tales, this is a book filled with suspense and revelation, light and shadow and the overwhelming feeling that nothing is quite as it seems in the Hillcoats’ lives. It’s spellbinding, scary stuff." (The Daily Express)
"Fuller handles the tension masterfully in this grown-up thriller of a fairytale, full of clues, questions and intrigue." (The Times)
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Resourceful, crafty, absorbing.
Peggy/Punzel, because we see everything through her eyes, and though there are clues which make it somewhat easy to guess the awful between-the-lines truths she's not directly telling us, still we want to hear it from her side, and will her to fight on. Because she is an infant for most of the story, you forgive her naivety - but can't help wanting to slip into the pages and tell her to run away!!
Soft, feminine, commanding.
This Be the Verse!
Reminded me a lot of the Life of Pi, as the protagonist goes through a remarkable and unbelievable experience, one with very little chance of surviving, but does survive the most harrowing of dangers, with only their wits and imagination to guide them. The first person perspective makes for a deeply absorbing read (along with the past/present disjointed timeline, feeding you clue-crumbs to make you even hungrier for the big answers), and the reader can't help but imagine how they would cope in Peggy's place. Despite the grim subject matter, having a sympathetic central character gives the book a strong emotional core, and it's worth sticking with (but I agree that it perhaps ends too abruptly...).