Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright by Chris Riddell
|Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright by Chris Riddell|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: If this is the final book in a trilogy, then fortunately the series has come to a most timely end. This fails to reach any of the heights of the series opener.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 224||Date: September 2015|
|Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Goth Girl and the rest of the Attic Club are not having the best of times. Ada's best friend is at school, while that girl's father Charles Cabbage tries to build a computer – with the weird help of three monkeys to fetch and carry his research volumes. Ruby is so anxious it's left to Ada to care for and cater for her and not the other way round, so frightened is she by the hauntings in the gothic pile they call home. And others are being bullied. So even though there are newcomers of the same age to the place, things need perking up. So what better time for Ada's father to hold a literary dog show – bringing the country's finest authors and their pooches to parade in contest for a respected audience?
I loved the first book in this series. Chance meant I never read the sequel, but here's a welcome visit back to the weird world of Ghastly-Gorm Hall. Here's a further dose, too, of those brilliantly crafted literary allusions and illusions, references, in-jokes, puns and more, that meant the first book could win awards as a read for the young, and also so much kudos from us older audience members for being so clever with its silliness. Or at least, I thought it was a welcome return to brilliance.
I would posit the reckoning that this series has had the biggest drop in quality of any I can remember. I didn't laugh at this book once; rather I wondered who on earth actually would benefit from all the puns. What young reader actually gets the name Ghastly-Gorm Hall – Mr Peake is not primary school reading, after all. Is a Victorian drama to be called Vanity Fete really that clever? And where is the benefit in having a Mrs Woolf (of Willoughby Hall, ba-boom-tish) threatening to go to the lighthouse?
More crucially, the series opener had a brilliant melange of gothic tropes forming itself into something utterly and dastardly new – bits of Frankenstein (pun intended) here, Bronte and more there, all delivered with a saucy irreverence that made me salivate for more. Here there is none of that. You know something has to be going on that's a bit more, er, genre-based (spooky, fantastical, horrific, ghostly – whatever) than a dog show, but it's way over half-way when we get a glimpse of it. Before then it's been set-up and set-up and oddness for oddness' sake, with authors (replete with twisty, punning names that will like as not mean nothing to the target audience) and their mutts arriving, and too many characters being introduced in other ways. And then we get the meal train from the first book described in great detail, then we have the main event and then we close. This is a short story padded out to the length of a full book and no mistake.
So much that was brilliant before has been forsaken, or tried for and not met. One window view allows Ada to look both due east and west at the same time. The first few chapters keep breaking off and interrupting their own flow with irrelevant side-details and extracts, etc. The 'guest' booklet attached to the back cover is nowhere near the pleasures of that for book one. The warmth, cleverness and indulgence I found in my first visit here just was absent. I so wanted Mr Cabbage to have more to do than look like Professor Branestawm with his multiple spectacles. If anything urged me to see it amusing to the young it would be the accident-prone skating parson, Dean Torville – a name whose relevance is perhaps more effective than the pair of dogs, Belle and Sebastian.
Principally I sought more of the same, and I found instead some other-worldly attempt that was almost a travesty. I can see some of the DNA of what I wanted, but this has mutated from a genius to a poor country bumpkin of a relative. Whatever befell the series at the midway point, and in the World Book Day edition, I have no idea. I shall always look back at the Ghost of a Mouse with much fondness, even if this is a ghost of a series to me now.
I must still thank the publishers for my review copy.
Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre is another title for this audience that is from other makers with an equally distinctive illustrative and literary style.
You can read more book reviews or buy Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright by Chris Riddell at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright by Chris Riddell at Amazon.com.
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