The Haunting of Charity Delafield by Ian Beck, published by Bodley Head on 3rd November 2011
Flame-haired Charity Delafield has grown up in a vast, isolated house - most of which she is forbidden to explore - with her fiercely strict father. With only her kindly nurse, Rose, and her cat Mr Tompkins for company, she knows very little of the outside world - or of her own family's shadowy past. What she does know is that she is never to go outside unsupervised. And she is never to over-excite herself, because of the mysterious 'condition' that she has been told she suffers from.
But Charity has a secret. All her life, she has had the same strange dream - a dream of a dark corridor, hidden somewhere in the house. Then, one day, Charity stumbles across the corridor. It leads to a door . . . and suddenly she realises things are not quite what they seem.
‘The Haunting of Charity Delafield’ is a charming little book which would make the perfect Christmas present, with its gorgeous gold edged cover and pocket size - just right for slipping into someone's Christmas stocking. Although aimed at a slightly younger audience, the story is so exquisite that I think older readers will be won over by it too.
It tells the story of Charity Delafield who lives in a big house with her father, servants and adorable cat Mr Tompkins. Apart from the kindly servants who look after Charity like she is their own daughter, Mr Tompkins is her only friend and companion and has a habit of frequently sneaking onto her bed at night. He's so adorable that I wish I had a cat just like him! Charity has been protected and cosseted all her life and has no real knowledge of life outside her small world. She doesn't see or play with other children and isn't even allowed to explore the whole of the house, most of which is kept locked up. When she's told by her father that she's going to be sent away to a boarding school, Charity is understandably upset but this sets in motion a chain of events which leads to her eventually finding out the truth about her family and the mysterious disappearance of her mother when she was a baby.
I really loved this delightful story which I can see myself picking up to read again and again. It’s fairly short so ideal for frequent re-reads but is packed full of charm and is a simply wonderful little book. I loved the character of Charity and the servants who look after her. They're always slipping her squares of chocolate or steaming mugs of hot chocolate and they treat her like she's their own. I also liked Silas Jones, the kind-hearted chimney sweep's boy who befriends Charity and helps her to unravel the long-buried secret about her mother. It's sad to think that she's never had a friend before but in Silas she finds someone her own age who she can have fun with and their friendship blossoms throughout the book.
The plot actually took an unexpected turn in the second half and I was surprised by the direction which the story ended up taking. However, there's a lovely fairytale quality about the book and this worked well with the second-half of the story which leads Charity on a real magical adventure, beyond the realms of anything she could have dreamt of.
The ending was beautifully written and in my opinion, absolutely perfect. If you like happy endings then you’ll love this one!