The Company of Ghosts by Berlie Doherty

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The Company of Ghosts by Berlie Doherty

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Fabulous ghost story featuring a remote island and a girl grieving about her parents' divorce. As usual, Berlie Doherty doesn't put a foot wrong. It's creepy but also tender and touching.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: October 2013
Publisher: Andersen
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1849397295

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Longlisted for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal

Morag's family has its very own island. Tiny and remote, it is truly wild and wonderful. And the offer to spend some time there with them couldn't have come at a better time for Ellie, whose parents have just divorced. She'll be able to escape Mum and Angus. And she'll be able to paint for her father. But things don't work out quite as planned. To begin with, awkward, diffident Ellie has to spend the first night on the island alone with George, Morag's brusque older brother. And then George returns to the mainland to pick up supplies. He doesn't return.

Abandoned, Ellie begins to see shadows. Hear footsteps. Feel icy kisses on her cheek each time she falls asleep...

The Company of Ghosts is genuinely creepy. Can you imagine being stranded on a tiny island, full of dangerous cliffs and sandbanks, without power or running water? Ellie tries to convince herself that the things she is seeing and hearing are tricks of wind or light, or even of the mind - brought on by fear and loneliness. But the sense that she is not alone is irresistible.

It's very easy to identify with Ellie. She feels abandoned as it is: her mother has remarried - chosen Sweaty Angus over her own daughter; her father has moved to Cornwall - choosing a job and a fresh start over his own daughter. And now George, a boy with whom she had felt the seed of friendship, has left too. You just want everything to get better for her and you pity her as she tries to paint away her fear.

The descriptions of the artistic process that Ellie has learned from her father are truly beautiful and they segue in to the lyrical nature writing in The Company of Ghosts. Doherty describes the flora and fauna of the island in such lovely detail that you almost feel as though you are there, as though you have Ellie's very own paints and mixes beside you. Even shells and stones are described with loving care.

I love the way Berlie Doherty writes. She's easy to read but beautiful too. There's never a stray word or sentence. She creates credible and interesting characters and here, in The Company of Ghosts she combines a ghost story with an exploration of a time of change in a young girl's life. Each strand melts seamlessly into the other and it makes for a read that is both lovely and unsettling but always absorbing.

Highly recommended.

If you're looking for more creepy stuff set in remote environments, then you'll love Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick. Or, for another island, and another girl coming to terms with a family catastrophe, then you could try Breathing Underwater by Julia Green.

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Buy The Company of Ghosts by Berlie Doherty at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Company of Ghosts by Berlie Doherty at


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