Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Teen Tuesday: A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge. Unabridged audiobook on one MP3 CD. 12 hours, 4 minutes. Read by Hallie Ricardo. Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio, January 2018. 978154368924. (Own)
In 17th century England, class lines are firmly entrenched but that does not stop the aristocracy from dalliances with the help. The bastard children of these trysts are usually discarded without a second thought, but in the case of the Fellmottes, if the bastard child possesses a certain gift, a family trait not as obvious as the Fellmotte cleft chin, then that child has value.
It is a time of civil unrest in England as Parliament and the king are at odds. The Fellmottes have allied with the king. It is in their best interests for him to stay in power. Makepeace knows she is a bastard child but has no idea who her father is. She has grown up among Puritans with her strict and secretive mother. When she shows signs of having what we learn to be the Fellmotte trait, her mother takes to locking her in a graveyard at night to "toughen her up." Her birth father is a mystery to her until her mother is killed during a riot and an agent from the Fellmotte family comes to claim her when her aunt no longer wants responsibility for her.
First she is imprisoned in a third story room and subjected to inhumane "treatment" for her ills. Then, she's made to work in the kitchen where she forms bonds with the dogs and her half-brother James. James and Symmond, the eventual heir of the estate are close but Symmond harbors a secret.
While I am not quite satisfied with my synopsis of A Skinful of Shadows, it'll have to do. Hardinge creates such complex, nuanced, unpredictable, original plots that they are difficult to wrap up in a tidy little summary. I don't have too many readers sophisticated enough for her books in my library but I am so glad to have them for that special middle school reader.
The sights, sounds and smells of 17th century England come alive in Hardinge's hands. The writing is lovely; the large cast of characters are intriguing and the suspense builds slowly.
I will admit to some bemusement over a narrator using an American accent to narrate a British novel that takes place in England. New-to-me narrator Haillie Ricardo has an arsenal of voices and accents from Scottish to lower and upper class British accents to depict the many characters and make them stand out.