TITLE: The Explosionist
AUTHOR: Jenny Davidson
DATE: July 1, 2008
GENRE: Young Adult Historical Fiction
RATING: 4 Stars
When I read the blurb for The Explosionist, a debut novel, written by Jenny Davidson, I wasn’t sure how the author could pull it all together. Indeed, although this book is billed as historical fiction, it is actually alternate historical fiction. Although we will meet many of the grand names in history such as Freud, Alfred Nobel and Napoleon, their roles will all have been rewritten and this gave me serious pause.
I really did not have to worry. While historical fiction is not usually my cup of tea, this story of 15 year old Sophie, set in Scotland in the late 1930’s kept me turning the pages compulsively.
The novel starts off with a quirky description of Sophie’s teen crush on her professor which is in stark contrast to the description of a bomb suddenly going off while both Sophie and her professor are having a discussion. The sheer opposite of these two events is a great example of the unexpected turns and twists this novel takes throughout its storyline.
As the story progresses, we witness Sophie’s inaptitude with her school mates as well as her family. Having been raised by a stern, Victorian-like Great-Aunt, who has no affection for her great-niece, Sophie finds herself left with her own thoughts and feelings of isolation – so much so that she is starting to believe that she is seeing things in the mirror.
One evening, Sophie is ordered, by her Great-Aunt, to attend a seance which turns out to be an unexpected and scary experience. Not only is the spiritualist bizarre and a fake (or is she?), a spirit chooses to deliver a doomsday message directly to Sophie. Shortly after receiving this message, the spiritualist is found dead and Sophie realizes that the bombings, the message from the spirit and the murder are all somehow intertwined and she must discover the link in order to save herself. With the help of her one friend, Mikael, Sophie will set off to try to make right what went wrong.
This young adult novel is beautifully written and has kept me interested and involved. The main character is smart, intelligent and likeable. As I was reading, the word gothic came to mind – the setting is described in a dark, broody and somewhat mysterious way – adding to the charm of this book.
This is a definite must read.