Today I’ve got a review from my mum, who loved this book so much she was more than happy to write a review for me to post here!
Peggy Hillcoat is eight years old when her survivalist father, James, takes her from their home in London to a remote hut in the woods and tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. Deep in the wilderness, Peggy and James make a life for themselves. They repair the hut, bathe in water from the river, hunt and gather food in the summers and almost starve in the harsh winters. They mark their days only by the sun and the seasons.
When Peggy finds a pair of boots in the forest and begins a search for their owner, she unwittingly begins to unravel the series of events that brought her to the woods and, in doing so, discovers the strength she needs to go back to the home and mother she thought she’d lost.
After Peggy’s return to civilization, her mother learns the truth of her escape, of what happened to James on the last night out in the woods, and of the secret that Peggy has carried with her ever since.
[My Mum’s Review]
What an extraordinary book this is. I am still thinking about it many days after finishing it.
It is narrated by a young girl who is 8 in parts and 17 in others and we only know what is happening through her eyes. Her Mother is a professional pianist and her father, much younger, is a retreatist – he, with a group of friends make plans for survival in a post-Apocalyptic World. Bewildering tensions and arguments happen and then her father takes her for a “holiday” in Die Hutte, a remote shelter somewhere in the Bavarian Hills. He tells her that everyone else in the World is dead and they stay there for 9 years.
We know that she survives because the narration switches between her back at home with her Mother and surviving in the hut with her father. What happens to her fathers mental health and how Peggy (or Punzel) manages to cope with this strange, harsh life is told is told in such simple terms, and so subtly that the layers of darkness under her understanding of the World has even more effect.
The clues are all there to what has happened but it wasn’t until after I finished the book that I started to recognise them and rethink what I had read.
For me, parts of the ending was unexpected but if you guess what has happened it doesn’t detract from a beautifully woven, mesmerising story.