When you’re dead, you’re dead. When you’re gone, you’re gone. Unless, of course, you’re not. And that’s where I come in.
The Whisperling has an intriguing opening that captured my interest immediately, and it kept me enthralled throughout: a story of the ties of family and friendship, of strength and courage, when prejudice and hatred run strong amongst some.
Peggy Devona’s parents run an undertaker’s practice in the village of Alderley which seems apt given that 12-year-old Peggy has a remarkable ability: she’s a whisperling, and has been able to communicate with the dead from a young age. The story opens with Peggy spending time with her best friend, Sally on her day off from working as a lady’s maid for Lady Stanton at Clifton Lodge. Following an argument between the friends, Sally leaves. Peggy worries when she cannot reach Sally, and is horrified when she later discovers that her best friend has been accused of the murder of her well-to-do mistress and is in imminent danger of being hung for her alleged crime. Can Peggy discover the truth, and save her best friend before she faces the gallows?
When she faces danger in her home village, Peggy escapes to Bristol with her Uncle Bletchley which brings her closer to the gaol in which Sally is incarcerated. But, does her uncle wish to protect her, or does he intend to use her to draw in clients for the seances he runs in his Psychic Emporium?
Oh my goodness! This is an incredible adventure: atmospheric, tense, dark and mysterious. I found myself completely swept into the exciting adventure, and unprepared for some of the twists and shocks which make it such a thrilling read. Seriously, I was not prepared for one revelation in particular – there might have been tears, so be prepared!
Peggy is a wonderfully sympathetic protagonist. Despite the apparent acceptance of whisperlings within society, she keeps her ability a secret for fear of the prejudice which still remains and which she faces from some who suspect she is a whisperling. She is determined, kind-hearted and courageous, and despite the danger she finds herself in, is prepared to take incredible risks to save her friend. I really liked the trusting friendship she forms with Cecily and Oti (who are effervescently brilliant, diverse and likeable) whilst at her uncle’s house. There was one character who intrigued me throughout, but I don’t want to say any more for fear of spoilers: suffice to say that the discovery is well worth the wait!
I loved both the Victorian setting and the darkly gothic atmosphere which were wonderfully portrayed. The focus on the Victorian attitude to death and mourning was weaved into the story brilliantly with a focus on spiritualism and reference to mourning photographic portraits. I read the description of the seances with bated breath – utterly fascinating and shiver-inducing! The references to a Victorian society in an age of invention and science blended with superstition and the macabre are seamlessly woven into the story.
This exhilarating, poignant mystery is perfect for those who enjoy deliciously dark, ghostly mysteries, guaranteed to bring shivers of delight – and maybe a frisson of fear! A fantastic read at any time, but ideal for spooky season as the longer nights draw in.
Long listed for the Bath Children’s Novel award, Hayley Hoskins writes in the space between family and work, with much support from her writing group. Mum to a teenage boy, she spends a disproportionate amount of time hoping that her son’s life is far less complicated than those of the characters in her books, and trying to ensure he becomes a ‘good egg’.
Originally from the Forest of Dean, Hayley lives with her family and hairy breezeblock of a dog in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
Thank you so much to Kaleidoscopic Tours for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour, and to Puffin Books for providing me with a copy of The Whisperling in exchange for my honest opinion.
Do check out the other stops on this week’s Blog Tour below: