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The Shadow Guests by Joan Aiken
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The Shadow Guests

by Joan Aiken

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This time-slip adventure from Joan Aiken, author of the beloved children's classic The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, follows the story of Cosmo Curtoys, who finds himself sent back to England after the mysterious disappearance of his mother and older brother in Australia. Here he learns of a curse which has plagued his family for generations, and confronts a series of ghosts... or are they ghosts?

This was an entertaining story, although I felt that it would have had a more powerful effect upon me if I had read it as a child or adolescent. It had some interesting discussions of the "nature" of magic and science, with a possible reconciliation of the two hinted at in comments about dimensions - a nice reference to Edwin Abbott's Flatland. ( )
2 vote AbigailAdams26 | Jul 1, 2013 |
Joan Aiken was one of those writers who made the task of reading her books not a task at all, just a pleasure to slip between the sheets and lose yourself in the narrative. Her command of story and speech seems so effortless yet true to life. The story opens in a 20th-century airport, Heathrow, with a youngster waiting to be collected by a relative, an opening so unlike many Aiken novels as to feel incongruous. There is a mystery surrounding Cosmo's family back in Australia, a mystery which gradually unfolds itself but which sets up an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety which maintains itself right through to the end.

Cosmo has been sent to stay in what at first appears to be a rural idyll outside Oxford. His female cousin, an eccentric but reassuring Oxford don that I wanted to like, is strangely the only weak character in the story: I couldn't quite accept that an academic could come up with some of the pseudo-scientific language and concepts that she occasionally uses. However, Cosmo's experiences as a weekly boarder at a minor a fee-paying school on the Woodstock Road, though seemingly anachronistic for the 1980s, probably reflected the arcane and traditionalist nature of that kind of institution which no doubt continues to this day; Aiken may have drawn on her own experiences as a 12-year-old at Wychwood Boarding School in Oxford in 1936.

The core of this novel is Cosmo's attempt to cope with the notion that his bloodline was cursed around two thousand years ago: do curses work, and if they do can they persist over the millennia? I was unconvinced both by the ability of certain characters to recount circumstantial details of all that time ago and the final dramatic resolution of the mystery in the closing pages. However, Cosmo was an admirable and personable boy, he called on inner resources when faced with paranormal experiences, and was very much in the mould of the traditional British lad familiar from Empire writers, exhibiting all those commendable virtues that perhaps were disappearing in the late 20th century. In short, it was a heart-warming tale but a tad unrealistic, given the supernatural premise. Oh, and the shadow guests of the title? They are the manifestations of individuals from Cosmo's ancestral past, some less shadowy than others, and not all very welcome as guests.

http://calmgrove.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/guests/ ( )
1 vote ed.pendragon | Jul 5, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765345307, Mass Market Paperback)

After the mysterious disappearance of both his mother and older brother, Cosmo is sent away to live with his eccentric mathematician aunt. Lonely and confused, Cosmo must also deal with being the new kid at school. Not an easy assignment! But things take a weird twist when Cosmo is visited by ghosts from the past. Ghosts who claim to need his help fighting an ancient curse!

Only in time will Cosmo learn that he is at the center of that ancient...and deadly...curse.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:56 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A young boy arrives at his cousin's home in England unprepared for the supernatural furor his presence unleashes.

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