Saturday 25 February 2012

Book Review - The Whispering Road

Title: The Whispering Road
Author: Livi Michael 
Publisher: Puffin 
Release Date: 6 Jan 2005
ISBN-13: 978-0141317038

A moving and powerful story about brother and sister, Joe and Annie, who flee from a pitiful existence as servants. They embark on a tough and perilous journey to Manchester in search of their mother who was forced to leave them at the workhouse when they were very young. Their future is tainted by the horrors of their past and as Annie is increasingly troubled by spirits, Joe is forced to make a tough decision. Driven by the lust for freedom, he sells Annie to a fair owner who plans to use her as a medium, and sets about creating a new identity for himself on the streets of Manchester. But the voices of the past won't leave Joe alone and ultimately he finds himself gravitating back to Annie and their original quest to discover the whereabouts of their mother.  

My Review
I don't know what made me pick up this book, it has quite a nice cover, one that makes you look closer and the storyline sounded quite good. I actually picked this from the booksale at work about 18 months ago. I had seen it on the shelves before that but never taken it home so I decided to grab it now it was being gotten rid of. I looked at this a couple of times since, wondering if I should just put it back for the next sale but something made me hold onto it.
Earlier this week I wanted a quick easy read and spotted this in my locker. I decided enough was enough and I should just read it.
Set in 19th Century England, Joe and Annie have been sent to work on a farm. When they left the workhouse they thought they were lucky, but this is much worse - worked to the bone and violently beaten they know they need to escape. The pair make a run for it and decide to head towards Manchester, to see if they can find their mum, she always promised to come back and now is the time to reunite.
Along the way they meet a host of characters, some nice and others only want to use them, the pair must learn who to trust and how to survive.
Joe is a cheeky chap, not completely sure of his age but somewhere around 12-14. He likes to tell stories and has a way with words, he is close to his sister but finds her very hard work. Annie has always been strange and is some sort of Medium, able to see Ghosts. Very strange, and doesn't speak much but very dependant on Joe.
I liked the two main children, they had a good bond and I really felt for them. Annie was very odd, but I just wanted to hug her, her upbringing had been so tough. And the sad thing is, these things really did happen, children were sold as cheap workers, slave like and beaten or worked to death.
There is lots of mystery and a hint of magic in the story but it is namely a historical fiction, the scene is set well and I could clearly picture evverything, I really did walk down that road with Annie and Joe.
Joe ends up leaving Annie and gets involved with a street gang, the characters there are great, so diverse, a real jumble but all very real. I loved little Queenie, so tough and brave holding it together, the whole group was so diverse. 
There were moments in this book where I laughed out loud and others where I had tears in my eyes. For the most part I was hooked into the story and really enjoyed it. 
However, there is the chunk of the book where Joe is taken in by a wealthy man, this part of teh book takes on a rather more political angle, discussing the affects of poverty on people and what the best ways to stop the poor from 'spreading' would be. This was OK for a little while as it offered an insight of how the other half lived in that time, but for me it went on a bit too long and really slowed the book down. I found myself losing focus and scanning the paragraphs a little bit, when Joe finally left there I breathed a sigh of relief.
But that was only a small issue and I actually really did like this book. 
The language and setting of the time was right down and the characters captured my heart. I'm glad I decided to keep hold of this book to read.

My Rating

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