What a refreshing and enjoyable trip down memory lane this book is. It was intended to be my Christmas read this year, but reading some very complimentary advance reviews made me long to pick it up sooner and I did, and I read it and I wasn't disappointed!
Set in the long hot school summer holidays of 1976, set to go down in history as "the hot one" and make all of us over 45 repeatedly mutter "I remember when summers WERE summers", even though there was really only the one like this.
In The Avenue, a normal street on an ordinary housing estate live 2 little girls, Grace and her friend Tilly, They don't quite fit in with the other kids but it doesn't matter because they are a formidable duo, full of imagination and ideas.
When a resident of the street a Mrs Creasy goes missing one day Grace decides that she and Tilly will solve the mystery of her disappearance by finding Jesus, who of course knows everything, and as they try, in their own inimitable way, to unravel what is behind the missing woman they uncover secrets and years of cover ups and hidden flaws amongst the residents of The Avenue.
Behind the veneer of suburban respectability lurks a hint of decay, like a vase of flowers on the brink of rotting.
Every resident is harbouring some kind of secret, every person has hidden vices and not so hidden prejudices.
When and if the girls do find Jesus will he bring everyone together or tear them apart?
What unfurls is a melodic story, written in prosaic thoughts and sentences of singular beauty, the voices of the 2 young girls echoing across the intervening years and making me feel their memories were mine.
With the flavour of angel delight, pick and mix and custard creams and the sound of Hilda Ogden on tv in the background we are transported back in time watching the mystery of a missing woman unravel everybody's secrets.
What the book is about at a deeper level is not fitting in and prejudice, friendship and betrayal.
Overall it's an utterly charming and delightful read with a mystery at heart that will have you wondering more than once whether someone is a gentle sheep following the flock innocently or a feisty goat head butting their way through life.
My gratitude to the kind folks at Harper Collins publishing who made me very happy by kindly providing a proof copy for review purposes.
Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.
And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…
'An utter delight’ Sarah Winman
‘A treasure chest of a novel’ Julie Cohen
‘One of the standout novels of the year’ Hannah Beckerman
‘I didn't want the book to end’ Carys Bray
‘An excellent debut’ James Hannah
‘Grace and Tilly are my new heroes’ Kate Hamer
‘A wonderful debut’ Jill Mansell
‘A modern classic in the making’ Sarah Hilary
‘A stunning debut’ Katie Fforde
‘Phenomenal’ Miranda Dickinson