‘This is my story, this is my life.’
Over seven parts, each measured by the time it takes a candle to burn out, Coriander Hobie writes the story of her life:
‘I was born in the year of Our Lord 1643, the only child of Thomas and Eleanor Hobie, in our great house on the River Thames in London. Of my early years I remember only happiness. That was before I knew this world had such evil in it, and that my fate was to be locked up in a chest and left to die.’
Coriander’s idyllic childhood ends when her mother dies. Her father quickly remarries a puritan widow and then leaves Coriander with her stepmother. As a silk merchant, Coriander’s father is suspect in the England ruled by Oliver Cromwell. Coriander, re-named Ann, by her stepmother Maud finds life without either of her parents difficult. And when her stepmother joins forces with a fundamentalist puritan preacher Arise Fell, things become worse.
But there’s magic in this story. Part of Coriander’s journey involves the fairy world from which her mother came, finding her own path between good and evil in both worlds. I think it would diminish the story to list the magical elements. Far better to read the story and discover each element (and its impact) as Coriander’s story unfolds.
I really enjoyed reading this novel. It won the Nestle Children’s Book Prize (Gold Award Winner) in 2005.