The Battle for Gullywith – worth the wait
The Battle for Gullywith by Susan Hill (Bloomsbury. £6.99). Paperback review
A story that is steeped in ancient mysteries and strange mythology, Susan Hill’s wonderful tale is now out in paperback.
A diverse talent, this was Hill’s first children’s book for more than ten years when it came out in hardback and it was proof indeed that young readers had been missing out.
The story opens with ten-year-old Olly and his family moving from the comfort of their London home to a remote wreck of a place in Scotland.
Of course, it is spooky, damp and the very fabric of the building seems to be alive. And what are the strange stones with their ancient markings that appear to move about and appear in unexpected places? What do they signify and what are their powers?
The reader feels for Olly, who has moved away from his comforts and friends to this strange and foreboding place, but when he meets his nearest neighbour, a feisty young girl named KK, she takes him on a journey where he learns more about his new home than he would like.
A tantalising mix of supernatural and the more mundane real life keeps the story believable and accessible. So not only do we have the Polish builders, Olly’s earthy parents and his new school pals at Fiddleup, we have magical books appearing, a castle and lake and the mysterious character of Nonny Dreever, who is critical to he development of the story.
Hill is an easy writer to read. Her narrative and elegant prose flow easily and her ploy to keep chapters short and sweet mean that readers can get to grips with the story in bite-sized chunks, if necessary – or that it can be read aloud to a willing audience.
The story ends on a knife edge, so watch this space for a sequel.