Invisible in a Bright Light by Sally Gardner

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Invisible in a Bright Light by Sally Gardner

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Bewitching, puzzling and exciting: as usual Ms Gardner keeps readers on their toes with a dramatic tale of danger, loss, jealousy and a deadly game, all set in the wings of a theatre. Who is evil, and how far they are prepared to go to achieve their aims? And, more importantly, just who is the heroine?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: November 2019
Publisher: Zephyr
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781786695222

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The beginning of this excellent story will leave the reader more than a little confused: who is the man in the green suit, what is the Reckoning, and why are rows of people in a cave? But stick with it – Ms Gardner is very cleverly letting us experience the same disorientation as our heroine. We watch in dismay as the strange man, who seems to have no eyes, does his best to persuade her to answer his questions. But for some reason Celeste, despite her bewilderment, remains wary and gives nothing away.

Gradually Celeste comes to understand something at least about the task she has been given, and what is at stake. Not much, to be honest, because she can remember almost nothing of her life before that morning when she woke up in a costume basket, and only rare flashes of insight come to her as she goes about her work as a theatre rat – the lowest of the low backstage, duty-bound to fetch and carry for everyone. At first nothing makes sense. She feels as if she has two memories – one of life as an orphan at the Royal Opera House where she knows every corridor, every cubby-hole and walkway, and one, more hazy, of things and people she has lost, and a time when she was happy. If this sounds bizarre, it's because it is, and the book is in part about how Celeste struggles to find the truth.

That may seem rather serious, but do not fear. Life in the theatre is, by its very nature, colourful and exciting, full of sham and special effects, larger-than-life characters and ruthless ambition, and when it comes to opera it seems you can multiply that by ten. In a world inhabited by prima donnas tantrums are the stuff of everyday life, appalling behaviour and utter selfishness the norm, and even the king fades into obscurity when compared to the diva who has stepped in to sing the main part in Massini's new opera. Her lumpish and sulky daughter is no better, and between these two and their demands Celeste has more than enough to cope with, never mind worry about some vague dream of an underwater world and a game she must play without knowing the rules. But little by little she makes progress, despite all the perils and deadly dangers, until at last she understands what she must do and, more scarily, what she is able to achieve.

Once again Ms Gardner has treated us to a must-read story that veers on the edge of spookiness, where things are rarely as they seem and where the price of failure is catastrophe. Another intriguing book about worlds beyond worlds is the classic A Stitch in Time by Penelope Lively: like this one, it is full of mystery, of people lost and friends found. And don't forget The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding, also set in a grimy but colourful backstage setting, with yet another heroine charged with completing a task she barely understands. Seriously, it seems that all the biggest dramas happen not on the stage but out of sight, just behind those velvet curtains! We also have a review of Gardner's The Double Shadow.

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Buy Invisible in a Bright Light by Sally Gardner at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Invisible in a Bright Light by Sally Gardner at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Invisible in a Bright Light by Sally Gardner at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Invisible in a Bright Light by Sally Gardner at


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