Here’s to the new year and a happy one for you all. Just to keep up-to-date, here are the latest reviews and mentions of THE VISITORS.
- I was absolutely bowled over by the 5* review on The Bookbag today! Here it is in full:
“Adeliza Golding is comfortably off by Victorian standards. She lives in a sizeable house, her parents can afford servants, Liza’s father owns and runs a hop farm, but… The but is considerable as Liza is different from most: she’s deaf/blind and isolated from the world with only ‘the visitors’ for company and communication in her mind. Almost in desperation when Liza is six, her father calls on Charlotte Crowe for help. Lottie penetrates Liza’s lonely world by teaching her finger writing. However, in doing so she unlocks revelations that Lottie would rather be kept secret. For not everything changes; the visitors remain, whoever they are and whatever they want.
English writer Rebecca Mascull has presented us with one of those ‘It’s never a first novel?!’ debuts that will be difficult for her to follow. That’s her problem though, ours is… Actually, apart from the odd patois that the narrative begins in (and that vanishes at the end of the first page) I had no significant problems with it whatsoever.
I must admit before starting I feared it would be a modern retelling of Helen Keller’s story (someone I read a lot about in my youth and well worth looking up if you aren’t familiar with her struggles). However, as wonderful as Helen’s real journey was, this novel is totally different while being just as absorbing.
It may be no huge surprise when we discover the identity of the visitors but this isn’t a story of twists (not until we reach the murder anyway). This is the story of dreams and triumphs in extreme adversity written by an author with the ability to translate the frustrations and hidden world of the isolated and voiceless (and we aren’t just talking about Liza). Yes, research goes a long way but skill is needed to make research riveting and, as she demonstrates, skill is something that Ms Mascull doesn’t lack.
The prose goes from what can only be described as stark suddenness to an evocative, poetic richness as we’re transported through the mores, restrictions and customs of the Victorian/Edwardian era. The texture becomes almost 3D as we spend time with the Kentish hop pickers and Whitstable oyster farmers before being vicariously whisked away to the Boer War via some graphically detailed letters demonstrating that barbarity isn’t exclusively enemy territory. One could churlishly wonder how letters like that escaped the censors’ pencils before arriving in Blighty, but they work so well as a literary device that, if one was wonder churlishly, it would only be momentary.
As with a lot of historical fiction, The Visitors shows recognisable signs of the era in which it was written as well as that by which it was influenced. In this case the girls muse over why British men are dying for a cause that has no apparent bearing on daily British life, something we’ve all either felt ourselves or witnessed in others in recent years.
This is indeed a novel of charm and well-researched detail with moments of great poignancy, any minor glitches reducing the grading from 6* out of 5 to a mere 5*. So please don’t let me hold you up any longer, just remember that for each copy of the book you read or give as a gift, you will also need a hankie or two to go with it.”
Thanks so much to reviewer Ani Johnson for that thoughtful and detailed review. It is wonderful for a writer to feel that someone has read their work so carefully and considered it so fully.
- Here’s a 2nd Amazon review:
Rebecca Mascull’s debut novel The Visitors is an atmospheric, ghostly tale set in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Adeliza (Liza) Golding is a frail child born to an even frailer mother and within a few years of her birth Liza becomes both blind and deaf, trapped in a dark and silent world in which her only communication is with her `Visitors’; spiritual apparitions who haunt her whenever she opens her sightless eyes.
Liza’s world is opened up one day when she encounters Lottie Crowe, a young woman working on her father’s hop farm, who has experience with blind and deaf children and is able to communicate with Liza through a rudimentary form of sign language. As Liza slowly re-enters the world around her, her life changes in ways she and her family never thought possible. As she herself observes: "Once I was an animal, human in body, feral of mind”, yet through her friendship with Lottie she becomes an enquiring and intelligent young woman as well as a famous one, as word of “the little deaf-blind girl who can talk with her fingers” spreads. However, during darker moments Liza’s ghostly `Visitors’ are never far away.
This is a beautifully understated and ethereal novel which captures the spirit of early Edwardian England very well, from the changing roles of women to the devastation caused by the Boer War. In her Author’s Note, Rebecca Mascull says that, although The Visitors is a work of fiction, parts of it are based on real events such as the war and the education of deaf-blind children from the late 19th century onwards. In my view she has blended these factual elements into a beguiling and compelling fictional storyline and created a very impressive debut novel.“
- Also, thanks to The Media Eye for featuring me On our Radar:
So, all in all, a super week for reviews. So wishing you all a Happy New Year and a wonderful 2014!