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Saturday, 31 August 2013

Review: The Girl Who Brought Mischief

This outstanding book is an experience that won’t be forgotten. It’s magical like a first visit to the circus, or the first sight of a shooting star. Influenced greatly by the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, Nannestad’s prose is daring and funny, exhilarating and deeply moving, with a unique writing style and an impressive use of language.

The setting is Denmark 1911. Ten year old Inge Marie Jensen sets out on a boat from Copenhagen to reach her grandmother on the island of Bornholm after her mother dies. (There is no mention of the death until well into the story) She arrives with one side of her hair eaten off by a goat travelling companion after falling asleep in the hay.

Inge’s happy and carefree childhood dissolves when she enters Grandmother’s house, for the old woman has forgotten how to share herself with others after being alone so long. Both hide their grief, but we see the loss the two are experiencing through their behaviour.

Inge starts school but finds the students reserved, well-behaved and silent. Even the music and singing is identical to the children’s behaviour. There is no fun in their life or their learning. The only person of interest is Klaus, a secretive, untidy, undernourished but fun-loving child. With Klaus, Inge can be herself.

Inge is bored at school and decides that what it needs is some mischief to liven things up. She doesn’t care that it comes at a cost. She attracts even more attention when she is followed by countless cats for weeks after falling asleep in the herring smokehouse. But her mischief influences Grandmother greatly, for she sees Inge’s mother reflected in her grandchild. She moves from stern and emotionless, to loving, sharing, and supportive. Inge has now become her world, forcing the void left by her daughter’s death to dissipate.

Inge’s fun-loving mischief extends to the whole village which slowly transforms from disinterested and complacent to happy, friendly and (mischievously) fun-loving.

The Girl Who Brought Mischief is about love and grief, loss and discovery, families and belonging. There is so much in this book that a review cannot possibly do it justice. Highly recommended.

Title: The Girl Who Brought Mischief
Author: Katrina Nannestad
Publisher: Harper Collins, $14.99 RRP
Publication Date: June 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780733332005
For ages: 8+
Type: Fiction

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