The House of Light by Julia Green

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The House of Light by Julia Green

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: In a world that's seemingly fallen apart, a little girl and her grandfather still find their own way to live a life of compassion. Atmospheric and moving, this is a really good read.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 256 Date: June 2019
Publisher: OUP Oxford
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780192771568

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Bonnie is growing up on a slightly strange island, living with her grandfather, scavenging for food, and rubbish that has washed up on the beach that she and her grandfather can use to make things. There is some sort of ban against anyone else landing on the island, and lots of suspicion around those who live there, including a great fear of anyone who gets sick. But when Bonnie is on the beach one day and discovers not only an intact boat, but a young boy cowering beneath, rather than turn him in to the authorities she takes him home and hides him, smuggling him boiled eggs and blankets in the shed whilst she tries to figure out what to do.

In this strange dystopian world, which seems at times like a Northern part of the UK post-climate-health-disaster of some description, Bonnie's future initially appears to be very bleak. There's a mystery surrounding the whereabouts of her mother, and what happened to make her leave Bonnie behind when she escaped the island. There is also the character of Ish, the little migrant boy Bonnie rescues. He has his own traumatic past that he is running away from, and in the end it isn't just Bonnie rescuing Ish, but also Ish rescuing Bonnie.

The story is very atmospheric, and you can feel the chill on the island, the wind from the sea, and the fear the children experience in a variety of different moments of peril. Bonnie's grandfather is a wonderful character, though I worried about him more and more as the story progressed. But I think what I liked most was the compassion shown by Bonnie, and the bravery by both children who desperately want something more, something better, and aren't afraid to go out, risking everything to get it.

Being the sort of reader who likes to know everything, I was a teeny tiny bit disappointed not to be given a fuller explanation of what on earth had caused all this trouble, but I've left it to my imagination to fill in the blanks! I also spent some time thinking about how I don't think my daughter is anywhere near as resourceful as Bonnie! Though I suppose when pushed to extremes, everyone is capable of more than they imagine. Certainly adventurous children will enjoy the excitement of the children's escapades. I liked the unravelling of the stories too, of Bonnie's family history and a little of Ish's too. Your attention is held, as you both watch the present day dramas unfold whilst wondering about the past and how things have reached this point for these two children.

Although this is dealing with difficult and sometimes scary and upsetting situations, it does so in a way that remains positive and hopeful, and never feels totally overwhelming. I found it to be thought-provoking and moving, as well as a really good story.

Further reading suggestion: You might also like to read The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble.

Buy The House of Light by Julia Green at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The House of Light by Julia Green at

Buy The House of Light by Julia Green at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The House of Light by Julia Green at


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