Monday, 24 March 2014

Saving Sophia by Fleur Hitchcock

I love post. I love exciting post. And I particularly love exciting surprise post that contains a book!

So I was delighted to find a little package from Nosy Crow on my doormat, containing the latest novel by Fleur Hitchcock. It's name is 'Saving Sophia', and I feel particularly excited to be given it, as it's not published yet and so I am one of the very first people to read it. Turns out I have received my proof copy even before Fleur herself! But, as she wrote it, hopefully there'll be no surprises for her, and I couldn't wait to get stuck in.  As I had dearly loved reading Fleur's previous novel, 'Dear Scarlett', I was pretty excited at the prospect of another story from her. 

To start with, (and I don't care what you say about not judging a book by its cover - the cover or spine is usually all you get to see until you pick it up and so it has to stand out and appeal to you beneath a mountain of other books to make you bother to pick it up and explore the blurb), Saving Sophia's cover is smart, striking, well-designed and beautiful, filling me with confidence, whether I knew about Fleur's writing or not. Jolly good job you Nosy Crow team, it looks gorgeous and deserves its place next to the exquisite 'Dear Scarlett'. 

'Saving Sophia' introduces us to Lottie, who meets a new friend and instantly falls into a rather large adventure, partly because she likes the excitement, and partly because she cares about helping Sophia sort out some pretty important issues, like, trying to see her Mum, and stopping an evil villain stealing all her money. This sounds a bit-far fetched to some, but for a girl who's head is full of stories, adventures and mysteries, it's quite a treat, until things get a little out of hand.

I will let you get acquainted with Lottie, Sophia, Ned, Miss Sackbutt and the others for yourselves, rather than spoil it for you by describing them too much here. But I will tell you that I loved the inspiration that came to Lottie through the life of a daring, determined, exciting old lady called Irene. I love how the memory of her motivated Lottie to push herself and do brave things; to conquer fears and win through, because she admired the bravery she saw in someone else. Role models don't have to be alive to be effective.

I revelled in the play between real stories and fictional stories, and how these shaped Lottie's thoughts and actions. Being an avid reader and yearning for adventure, Lottie is forever referencing titles of absurdly-named books she's read and explaining how certain characters got out of particular predicaments. Applying this knowledge to real life though is a little more complicated.

I think lots of kids will see themselves in the relationship between Lottie and her brother Ned. Caring for someone doesn't necessarily mean you tell them how great you think they are. Sometimes punching them and telling them they stink resonates far more when you have a brother as cheeky as Ned.

Fleur's writing makes you feel very at home. Enough is said to really immerse you in the lives of her characters, without bogging you down with extraneous detail. Fleur's stories are finely woven, with each thought and pondering showing us more about the people she has created, letting us understand their hopes and worries enough to move on their journey with them, and believe their emotions and reactions. Everything that Fleur lets sit on the page contributes to a really fantastic plot; a tidy plot with neatly tied-in ends. There is so much subtle detail tucked away within the strands of the sentences that you don't always notice until you reach certain landmarks and realise where she has lead you. 

Obviously, books are marketed with a certain age range in mind but I don't personally care about that even slightly. Pick up books you think look interesting and read whatever you enjoy. I would recommend this book to my Mum, because I know she enjoys books like I do, and I would recommend it to my nextdoor neighbour's eldest girl, who is 9, because she is thoughtful and loves adventure. 

This book is full of mystery, questions, surprise, tension, tenderness, frustration and joy. Which, in my opinion, is a great recipe for a good book. 

Sorry that you have to wait until July to read it! In the meantime, as I have told you all on numerous occasions, read Dear Scarlett. It's too good not to. 

Have a good week.

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