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- author Jackie French

Monday, 18 November 2019

Review: The Secret Starling

This debut novel is multi-layered and exciting. It’s built on scattered pieces of information that are gathered together and built into monumental and tension-filled episodes of action and revelation which propel the story to a sizzling climax.

Clara calls Braithwaite Manor her home. But it is a place without warmth, love, laughter, play or company. Her uncle, a detached, unemotional man has a regimented routine which allows only the bare essentials needed to stay alive. 

Clara knows nothing about her mother except what her uncle told her – that she was a famous ballerina and died giving birth to her.

Unable to keep the house any longer, and selling all that is valuable, Uncle tells Clara they are leaving. She packs her bag and they drive into town and he abandons her on a footpath. She makes her way back to the Manor, and discovers a wad of money has been placed in her coat pocket.

Freedom is a welcomed thing for Clara after living in a world of silence and deprivation. But at the manor, a boy is waiting. Peter has been sent by his Gran to stay with uncle as she has been taken ill. He brings with him a cat named Stockwell.

Now Clara has Peter and the cat for company in a house without electricity, but which has now come to life. It is a living, breathing thing, a place with hope and heart. The money, the cat, and Peter’s cleverness and knowledge, are enough for Clara. She is content for the first time.

But there is a For Sale sign up, and people come to view it. Stockwell digs up an old ballet shoe from beneath the house. The shoe is traced to the maker and a quest begins for the children to find out if it is connected to Clara’s mother. Peter’s longing to become a ballet dancer has equipped him with knowledge surrounding the world of ballet companies, along with the world outside the Manor in which Clara has been captive since birth.

Together they embark on a sleuthing journey to follow clues that lead them to them to Rudolph Nureyev. Here they uncover startling information about Clara’s identity.

Delightful images of the characters in black and white are interspersed throughout the novel. I read this in one sitting and loved it.

Title: The Secret Starling
Author: Judith Eagle
Illustrator: Kim Geyer
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $14.99
Publication Date: June 2019
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781571346301
For ages: 10+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction

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