This is an absolutely beautiful story to read, one of determination, love and above all hope. Clementine is kept in the most disgusting of circumstances by her aunt and uncle, who use her as their slave for the cooking and cleaning and in return refuse her meals and are physically nasty too.
It is the emotional side of this seclusion that really matters to Clementine most, she is lonely, afraid, hurt and abandoned in the basement of the house – locked up night after night. She does question what she has done to deserve being treated the way she has, or whether it is her aunt and uncle who are at fault for it. Thankfully she has a companion at times when a cat called Gilbert pays her visits, giving Clementine the chance to speak her thoughts aloud, albeit to a cat that cannot answer.
The story is told as though from a narrator reminding me of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate events and Charles Dickins’ A Christmas Carol. The latter seems fitting with the Dickensian feel to the scenes and characters within the book ‘Sitting on a rooftop close by, slumped against a chimney, was a child. A sweep’s boy surely for the child was sooty black from head to toe’. This narrative really immerses you into the rhythm and tone of the story easily from the offset and alongside the dazzling illustrations ensure you really enjoy this story, backing Clementine the entire way in her bid to escape the captivity she lives in and find The Magic Place.
The Magic Place is somewhere Clementine dreams of and which gives her hope when she looks up the chimney stack each day whilst laid on the floor and sees the sky. ‘And there was a house in that valley, just one. A little grey cottage. It was at the end of the winding road, beside a stone bridge that crossed the silvery stream. And there was smoke too, though not the black smoke of the city: a thin wisp of blue smoke, curling up from the chimney of the little grey cottage’.
There are glances at a second character within the book, someone who has his own story. Searching the streets near to where Clementine’s aunt and uncle live for something or someone important. William comes across as someone who is also relying on hope to get him through and has a strong determination to see through the task he is there to complete. Both characters are fantastic role models to the readers with their grit and perseverance, especially Clementine who remains hopeful in the worst of circumstances.
Linking the two is a cat, known by a different to Clementine and William but definitely the same cat, he seems clever and capable and wills them on and in the right direction at times when it benefits them the most. The book has some amazing twists and surprises and will keep the reader on the edge of their seat right to the very end, and ultimately leaving them grateful for reading such a fantastically written, engrossing story. Every page is adorned with beautifully detailed illustrations that compliment the text perfectly. The illustrations enhance the humour, danger and progress of the story and when the narrative references the upcoming or previous illustrations it reminds you that there are two key ingredients to this book which make the contents such a fantastic story – the text and the illustrations.
This is definitely one of those stories that you read and feel a connection to, and which has a deserving ending after such a great adventure story. Clementine at times is treated like that of Cinderella and she got her happy ending after enduring such unhappiness for so long so you find yourself willing Clementine on from the offset, and when the story concludes and you reflect on what you have read you come to realise that this is definitely a modern day classic with all the feel of a top quality book.