Flesh and Blood
(Puffin, £4.99, 211 pages, paperback, 8 January 2004.)
Following on from the entertaining and original Piggies comes
Nick Gifford's second young-adult novel, Flesh & Blood. In this
work, Matt, the central character, is haunted by dreams of an unpleasant
variety, a sort of parallel world where things just ain't right. The
people of this dream-world know Matt is a newbie, and so they watch
him, very carefully...
The novel begins with the funeral of Matt's Gran and an introduction
to the family home at Crooked Elms; also to the family that will soon
take over his life--Gramps, Uncle Mike, Aunt Carol and the sisters Tina
and Kirsty, his cousins. Crooked Elms, it turns out, is unusual, but
then Matt notices something more unusual, a certain patch of well-tended
cemetery where six people died, all in the same year of 1898. Later,
he learns that there is a certain, special skill in his family that
he may have inherited. But other family members may not have inherited
it, and that causes problems.
Slowly, as the novel progresses, a sense of claustrophobia is built
up. Matt has more encounters with his cousins, with Uncle Mike and especially
with Gramps. Then there is the black sheep of the family, Vince, who
knows more than is immediately obvious. And there is something dark,
compulsive and evil in the cellar at Crooked Elms...
This is an even better novel than Piggies, which was pretty
damn good. I hope I won't embarrass the author by saying that the sense
of family claustrophobia in particular is superbly portrayed--gripping,
in fact--with an eye for detail that suggests a writer of considerable
observational powers. Anybody who has felt the tensions at a family
funeral, for example, will identify with the opening scenes, which grab
you and pull you in to the novel. The weird, otherworldly fascination
of the alternate world is also superbly done, again written with a strongly
observational eye--bloodied seagulls, tramps etc. Great stuff. I read
this in two sittings. It's not a long novel--211 pages in my copy--but
it does leave a very strong impact.
Excellent stuff. I hope there's more!
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