This is another one that I (Miriam) found on the internet, requested, and then had to wait impatiently for. My decision that the library needs this book was prompted by reviews I read which contained the words, “gothic,” “Snicket,” and “Dahl”; any book which merits such comparisons will likely be a favourite of mine.
From its gorgeously creepy front cover to its shiny back, I read it in roughly 48 hours. As I expected, it was funny, it was touching, and it was deeply, wonderfully weird. We follow the adventures of the three Hardscrabble children who, as their name suggests, are a motherless trio of bright British outcasts. Otto, the oldest, has not spoken aloud or removed his scarf since their mother mysteriously disappeared five years previously. Lucia, the middle child, is precocious, literary, and lovable, and acts as Otto’s sign-language translator. Max, the youngest, is an avid reader with what surely must be an IQ of 250. When their father accidentally sends them to London to visit a relative who is on vacation in Berlin, the Hardscrabbles decide to embark on an adventure to find their long-lost great aunt Haddie, of whom they learned only days before.
I laughed a lot as I read, and there are definite likenesses to Snicket, Roald Dahl, and my hero M. T. Anderson (see especially The Game of Sunken Places). When I reached the climax and its explanation, however, I was so shocked that I actually cried, “WHAT??” aloud. There is a fittingly weird ending to this weird story about weird people. And yet, what jarred me (and, upon reflection, what I liked about it) is that the weird ending actually explained away much of the strangeness of the story. It was not at all what I was expecting. To be honest, I will be very interested to see what other people, and especially children, make of this story.
I will be recommending this to lovers of the abovementioned authors, and to anyone who likes a truly weird tale. To be read with no expectations of any kind. Two thumbs up.