I bought the The Considine Curse from the Blackwell’s book tent in Oxford when I was at the Oxford Literary Festival in April. It had ‘Winner of the Blue Peter Book of the Year 2012′ emblazoned in bright yellow on the cover. I knew my friend Linda Chapmanhad been one of the selectors of the shortlist so I asked her what had made her choose this particular story from the dozens of titles the panel must have looked at.
‘It’s a real page-turner, funny, exciting and perfectly pitched for ten-year-olds with a cast of eccentric characters, mysterious goings on – and some gruesome bits too! I loved it!’ .
Well, I can tell you that I agree with Linda; I loved it, too. Gareth P. Jones has written a classic 8-11s book – and I use the word ‘classic’ only on rare occasions.
The Considine’s are an odd family, as Mariel finds out when she meets them for the first time at her grandma’s funeral. Her mother’s five brothers are welcoming enough, to say they haven’t been close to her mother for years or seen Mariel since she was a baby, but her cousins are a different kettle of fish altogether. They’re decidedly unfriendly, especially Oberon, one of Uncle Harkett’s two sons, and Elspeth, Uncle Sewell’s daughter. ‘Grandma didn’t want you here and neither do we,’ Elspeth hisses by way of introduction. ‘Not the child of the daughter with blood like water.’
Charming, thinks Mariel, wanting to get the visit over and done with ASAP so she can go home to Australia. Unfortunately, her mother has booked a ten day stay and when it’s suggested they spend two days with each of the brothers’ families instead of in the hotel, her mum jumps at the chance.
This is a neat way of telling the story. As Mariel stays with each relative in turn, she (and we) find out more and more about her dead grandmother and the powerful grip she has on her grandchildren, even beyond the grave. Each discovery leads Mariel deeper and deeper into a dark, strange world.
The Considine Curse is a terrifically engaging read. Mariel is likeable, intelligent and sassy. The dialogue rings true, especially the tetchy mother-daughter exchanges. Each of the cousins has a distinctive personality; I really warmed to Amelia, who wants to be a model but has a certain extreme body-odour problem that hinders her ambition. It ends with a terrific punch, too.
Well done, Gareth P Jones. I’ll be reading more of your books from now on.
The Considine Curse by Gareth P Jones
Published by: Bloomsbury
Illustrated by: Adam Stower
Cover design: John Fordham
Suitable for: boys and girls, 8-11s, confident readers who enjoy humour and weirdness with a twist.
Other books by Gareth P Jones: The Thornthwaite Inheritance, the Dragon Detective Agency