Audiobook: White Crow, By Marcus Sedgwick, read by Teresa Gallagher

Sue Gaisford
Sunday 23 October 2011 04:37

If you see one white crow, then not all crows are black: if just one person returns from the dead, then there must be an afterlife.

Two lonely, motherless 16-year-olds meet, one hot summer, in the East Anglian village of Winterfold. Rebecca, miserably dumped by her boyfriend, is with her uncommunicative father, a disgraced policeman awaiting his appeal. She is adopted by another lost soul, the elfin, clever and slightly sinister Ferelith, whose mother has killed herself and whose father has disappeared.

Winterfold is another Dunwich. Once a bustling port, it has gradually fallen into the sea: the little that remains is going the same way. Its one, grim, remaining pub is called The Angel and the Devil.

Eschewing the cheerful beach, the girls explore the spooky church, its eastern end already fallen over the cliff, and the boarded-up Winterfold Hall, the scene of some seriously gruesome experiments in the 1780s.

Teresa Gallagher's intelligent reading is simply wonderful: she gives the two girls light, subtly differentiated voices, which are interspersed with the raspingly anguished diary entries of the 18th-century vicar, here heralded by spooky, howling winds.

This is a superb contemporary gothic horror story, ostensibly for teenagers but with a lot to say to adults, too. Beautifully written and irresistibly dynamic, it explores themes of heredity, of good and evil, of the possibility of redemption and of the vital necessity of love, wherever it may be found.

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