Review Blog

Oct 10 2012

Love notes from Vinegar House by Karen Tayleur

cover image

Black Dog Books, 2012. ISBN 1742032192.
(Age: 11-14) Recommended. Freya is forced to spend her holidays with her grandmother at Vinegar House when her parents have to go overseas to visit her ill Nana. In one way it's not too bad because there have been rumours about her on Facebook and she is happy to get away from computers. However her cousin, Rumer, whom she doesn't get on with, is there as well. Rumer is one of those people who always seem to get what she wants and she wants Luke Hart, the only boy that Freya has ever wanted.
When Freya arrives at Vinegar House she finds that things are even more strange than usual. She spots a light coming from the attic window at night, the attic that is always locked. When she finally goes into the attic, she spies a shadow in the corner of the mirror that stands in the corner. Mysterious love notes are pushed under Rumer's door, addressed to R and signed L, and Freya is convinced that she will never have a chance with Luke.
Tayleur's approach to the Gothic house, the ghostly light and the romance is quite subtle and thoughtful. There are slight nods to Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, with weird housekeeper, a desolate beach and old family secrets. Freya, whose voice is often funny and poignant, describes the love triangle, often coming up with the clever thing to say when it is too late. She comes alive as a smart teen who can see her own failings and prejudices and who ultimately does the right thing for all the people in her family. She knows that she runs away from trouble, instead of facing it and gradually gets the courage to face her fears.
This is not a ghost story that will make you quake with fear. Rather it is a story that is based on the psychological insights that the reader gains about the characters. Freya states that she doesn't believe in ghosts, but the reader is left wondering who filled the bath late at night and shone a light to beckon people in danger home. And just what did happen to Rumer's mother so long ago and why was no one prepared to talk about it?
I enjoyed this story, which on first reading seemed quite simple but on reflection would open up many more avenues on a second read. I think thoughtful readers would find a lot to enjoy in it.
Pat Pledger

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