Sunday 30 October 2011

CBR3 Book 83: "Chime" by Franny Billingsley (Read-a-thon 2011)

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Page count: 368 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Date begun: October 22nd, 2011
Date finished: October 22nd, 2011

This is the first book I read during this year's Read-a-thon, and I first heard about it and discovered Franny Billingsley's books through Raych, a fellow Cannonballer (whose reviews and blog I now follow slavishly).

Briony Larkin has a big secret. Briony is a witch. It's her fault that her stepmother died three months ago, and it's her fault that her twin sister Rose isn't quite right. Briony can see and talk to the Old Ones (spirits in the swamp around the village), and she mustn't let anyone know that she's a witch, or the town council will try her and hang her. She must above all, remember to hate herself, and not let anyone close, and she must always take extra good care of Rose, or her secret may be revealed.

Staying aloof and lonely proves more difficult when Elric Claybourne, and his father, a city engineer come to town. Elric has been thrown out of university, and will stay in the house of Briony's father. He's charming and handsome and oh so friendly, and doesn't seem to understand that Briony can't and doesn't want to have any friends. Rose has a terrible cough, and Boggy Mun (the leader of the Old Ones) say that she could die from the swamp cough, like so many of the town's children before her, unless Briony manages to successfully stop Mr Claybourne and the other engineers from draining the swamp and building a train line through it. How can she explain to the town council what the Boggy Mun has said, without revealing her secrets and risking her life?

Chime is the second Franny Billingsley book I've read this month, and I'm so glad I discovered her. The cover of the book is awful, and makes it look like some sort of turn of the century Gossip Girl rip off, which it so isn't! Like The Folk Keeper, Chime has a strong yet lonely heroine, who needs to learn to accept help and friendship from others to discover how awesome she is, and that she deserves happiness, joy and affection. While with a slight supernatural twist, Chime is mostly a historical novel, where the heroine has to go discover her true worth, and is rewarded with love as well. The budding relationship between Briony and Elric is very sweet, but I especially loved the depiction of Briony's relationship with her twin sister (who clearly has Asperger's syndrome), and both her deep affection for her and need to protect her and wanting her troublesome sibling to just drop dead. This is a wonderful book, who everyone should read, and I plan to buy any other book by Billingsley immediately upon release.

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