From Kent to Cape Town via The Afterlife
Rebecca Mascull’s book lets us into the unearthly world of Adeliza Golding. She is born on a Kent hops farm with very little sight but can see a host of pale and curious faces who whisper and nod at her – these are The Visitors. Then the fever comes and takes her hearing yet The Visitors remain, shaking their heads with pity but still wanting to be near her. Her eyes grow cataracts and her speech withers, leaving her with no way of communicating with the world; her parents often leave her languishing in her room never sure whether she will pull hair or bite because of her frustration with a world she cannot make understand her. Then, at the age of 6, her saviour comes in the shape of Lottie. Lottie is harvesting hops with her family, when she encounters this almost savage little girl. Most people are scared of Liza but Lottie is not most people, she knows hand signing and little by little she is able to open up Liza’s world. Lottie teaches her hand signs, how to translate them into language, and finally when her cataracts are removed she can use lip reading and sign language. The Visitors return as soon as Liza starts her journey into language. They stream in, desperately, as if they have been waiting all this time to talk to her.
Liza tries to tell Lottie about them, but is scared of her parents finding out and worries they will all think she is ‘touched’. She makes a connection when she reads A Christmas Carol – The Visitors are also spirits – but at least while she is concentrating on her reading they remain quiet. Lottie takes Liza to visit her family in Whitstable and she learns that new Visitors come wherever she goes, on the train, at the station, in the street and all of them have so much to tell her. They seem to be stuck in a groove telling her about a problem or trouble they have and none of them seem to know they are dead. She learns, after an encounter with an angry spirit, that if she tells them to go away forever and not return she does not see them again. It is on this trip to Whitstable that she goes out on the family oyster boat and tries oysters for the first time. She also meets Lottie’s twin brother Caleb with whom she has a connection that will take her on a daring rescue mission to South Africa and the Boer War, where one Visitor in particular will help her to solve a terrible crime.
Mascull’s novel takes us on a journey with an amazing young woman who has an incredible gift. Just as she strives for self-expression so others will understand her, she strives to use her gift and understand what The Visitors want from her. The book has moving accounts of her ability to heal and comfort those left behind when she shares with them knowledge of their lost loved ones. She does this responsibly by finding something only their loved one could know, but waiting for the right time so she can do right by both the dead and the living. The scene where she tells Lottie about her younger sister is moving, but even more moving is when she chooses to use information to make life better for someone else, even though it breaks her own heart. The idea of a girl with no sight who has second sight has been visited before, but Mascull’s skill is that she makes it fresh. Adeliza is a very modern heroine, who despite disability and incredible loss has the courage to be a financially and physically independent woman. Even before her trip to Cape Town, she plans a trip round Europe, taking in all the sounds and sights including the many Visitors who swarm to meet her there. She faces the shock of the burnt out Boer farms and the horrors of the prison camps with courage and compassion. I will not ruin the end or events of the novel only to say it is great to read such a positive novel about someone with multiple sensory disabilities. Liza finds a way round her obstacles and rather than seeing her Visitors as something to fear she learns to use her gift in a positive way for the living, but also to set these lost and worried souls free.
- Title: The Visitors
- Author: Rebecca Mascull
- Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (17 July 2014)
- ISBN-10: 144476523X
- ISBN-13: 978-1444765236
- Reviewed by Hayley Baxter- Hayley has worked in mental health for 15 years starting as a Community Support Worker. Since then she has trained as a Counsellor and Psychotherapist specialising in illness and disability. Her own MS diagnosis in 1995 led to work at Lincoln MS Therapy Centre. Hayley has a life- long love of books and a first class degree in English Literature. She launched Hayley has worked in mental health for 15 years starting as a Community Support Worker. Since then she has trained as a Counsellor and Psychotherapist specialising in illness and disability. Her own MS diagnosis in 1995 led to work at Lincoln MS Therapy Centre. Hayley has a life- long love of books and a first class degree in English Literature. She launched Lotus Flower Book Club this summer – a literary gift subscription business, which also offers counselling and a writing therapy program. www.lotusflowerbookclub.co.uk Lotus Flower Book Club this summer – a literary gift subscription business, which also offers counselling and a writing therapy program.