A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I do enjoy a Frances Hardinge book! Always different and fresh; but also always with so much depth and complication.
1640s. England. Makepeace, twelve, lives with her mother and her aunt's family in Poplar, a village outside of London. OK, first of all: Poplar! This is the Poplar that becomes the Poplar of Call the Midwife. Every time I heard it I smiled. I'm not sure if that was on purpose or not but I loved it.
Makepeace was born out of wedlock; her mother lives in compliance with rules and morals and beliefs of their Puritan community. It's not so much that her mother believes it: but it's where they live, the times they live. Where they hide -- from their past. From where her mother, unwed, pregnant, fled.
Makepeace has nightmares: ghosts attack her, at night. Her mother offers no sympathy: she wants her daughter to toughen up.
Then the unthinkable happens: Makepeace and her mother are caught up in a riot against King Charles in London, and her other dies. Before, one word is whispered about where her mother had come from, and Makepeace, full of grief, is sent to her father's home. A great home, a great family, and Makepeace is one of the illegitimate children given a home. A home as long as she works, of course.
It is here she learns the family gift: they can absorb ghosts. The ghosts become part of them. Only some in the family have this talent, and that - not compassion, not love - is why homes are offered to children like Makepeace.
And that's just the beginning! What does it mean to have a ghost within you? What does it do to the host and to the ghost?
Meanwhile all this is playing out against the battles between Parliament and King, between the different forms of religion practiced.
Makepeace: what can I say. She is determined and loyal and smart. And her adventures!
And, of course, now I want to know more about the English Civil War. As an American reader, I know the generalities, and I felt it was enough to understand the story and what was going on. That said, I imagine someone with a greater knowledge of that time period would get more out of it, have a deeper appreciation of the politics Makepeace observed.
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