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The Great Ideas

by Suzanne Cleminshaw

A rites-of-passage tale about a 13-year-old girl living in the shadow of her sister who died in strange circumstances. Haddie describes her exploits with her eccentric friend, Louis, as they both try to solve various problems that may be linked to their mysterious new neighbour. The book aroused very mixed feelings in me. Haddie's account is both moving and disturbing but also funny - at times I laughed out loud. However, the setting was unconvincing - it felt more like the Fifties than the Seventies. The central story is also punctuated by Haddie's frequent musings about philosophy, religion and history, which she supposedly reads about in an encyclopaedia. ('The Great Ideas' of the titles I presume, and the only possible reason that a novel would have an index.) You can skim most of this obscure, pretentious and at times unintelligible nonsense - it's merely padding which serves only to slow the narrative pace - and enjoy what is otherwise an absorbing story.

Extract

I am just about to tell Louis that we should get out of here, fast, when I hear the front door close loudly downstairs.

Louis runs over to the wardrobe, and folds himself into the suits, clicking the door behind him. I'm frozen next to the beds, the photograph shaking in hand. The wardrobe door opens.
'Hide idiot!' Loius hisses through the crack.
'Where?' I ask, helpless.
'Dumbwaiter,' Louis orders.

The dumbwaiter is nexr to the bedside table. I get in , and shut the door after me. It is dark, and quiet. My knees are bent up to my eyeballs. Then I hear the sound of dishes and glasses below me. Running water. The bachelor must be in the kitchen. With a jolt the dumbwaiter begins to descend. Damn, I cross my fingers and start praying to God and cursing Louis Lewis. The dumbwaiter moves in slow crealing suspense. I see myself with a bullet hole through my forehead, the bachelor over me, stylishly blowing at the tip of a smoking pistol.

Parallels

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
Sophie's World by Jostein Gaardner
 

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