Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Lion of Sole Bay by Julia Jones

Reviewed by Chris Longmuir
The Lion of Sole Bay (Strong Winds) 
Although this book was out of my comfort zone, I read it because I knew Julia Jones was a good writer, and I was in the mood for something different. What I didn’t expect when I started reading was how much I would enjoy the story, and the strength of feeling I would have for the characters.

It was obvious after I started reading that this book was crafted by an expert story teller. The suspense and pacing ensured interest in the overall story was maintained, and the characterisation was flawless. These were characters I could believe in.

Luke, a twelve year old boy left to fend for himself on his father’s boat after his dad had an accident, displayed a nice mix of confidence and helplessness in his ability to care for himself. His Dutch neighbours were weird enough to set pulses racing. Ants/Angel with her frenzied activity gave a realistic portrayal of ADHD, and despite getting up everyone’s noses, I really liked Angel. I thought she was feisty and unusual. Old Peter, who lived in the gamekeepers hut and wore a scraggy fur coat most of the time, evidently had some mental issues. The first time Luke saw him he thought the old man was a werewolf.

The menacing aspect of the book originated with Luke’s Dutch neighbours. Hendrike, a drug using mother who was lapsing into insanity. Elsevier, her partner, who provided the drugs and was using Hendrike for her own purposes. And Helen, Hendrike’s daughter. Disliking and fearing Hendrike and Elsevier wasn’t difficult to do. But I went through phases of liking and disliking Helen, who sometimes seemed as evil as the others, and at other times indicated a more caring nature. I think by the end of the book I felt more sorry for her than anything else.

The suspense was maintained throughout the book. There was always a feeling that something awful was about to happen, and when it did the suspense ratchetted even higher.

I don’t want to include any spoilers so I won’t describe the plot in detail, but the final chapters with Luke, Ants, and her father, prisoners on board a dilapidated barge in the middle of stormy seas in the English Channel was nail-bitingly exciting, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

This is a book that will not only appeal to children, and young adults, but also those readers of more mature years. I loved it.

 Chris Longmuir

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