April 2, 2018

Book Review: Strange Star by Emma Carroll


One stormy June evening, five friends meet at Villa Diodati, the summer home of Lord Byron. After dinner is served, they challenge each other to tell ghost stories that will freeze the blood. But one of the guests–Mary Shelley–is stuck for a story to share.

Then there’s an unexpected knock at the front door. Collapsed on the doorstep is a girl with strange scars on her face. She has traveled a long way with her own tale to tell, and now they all must listen.

Hers is no ordinary ghost story, though. What starts as a simple tale of village life soon turns to tragedy and the darkest, most dangerous of secrets. Sometimes the truth is far more terrifying than fiction . . . and the consequences are even more devastating.

I was thrilled to read Strange Star by Emma Carroll as I have been obsessed with that fateful summer when Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and Polidori gathered at Lake Geneva. That stormy summer gave rise to assorted poems, “The Vampyre,” and most famously, Frankenstein. I've often envisioned what it would have been like to have been there and heard the seeds of these stories being recited out loud for the first time. Carroll re-imagines that amazing episode from the point of view of two children - Felix, a black servant; and Lizzie, a country girl.  Although this is a middle grade book, Carroll retains some of the more scandalous players such as Claire Claremont without going into adult themes. The narrative takes an interesting diversion from Switzerland to the English countryside and an imagined inspiration for the tale of Frankensteinwith a new cast of fictional characters. I enjoyed Carroll's take - which gave me some shivery moments and revitalized a favorite "back story" of a literary masterpiece.

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