Page 45 Review by Stephen
The opening page of woodland is so beautiful that I almost cried.
Another book from Hope (GRAY HORSES, CHIGGERS, SALAMANDER DREAM) that will win the hearts and spirits of young teen readers upwards with its bonds of friendship, tentative romances, and a dark slice of ancient family history linking the Nova Scotia of today with the earliest prospects of gold 150 years ago.
Tara Fraser used to live in the farmhouse that burned down several months ago. They weren't insured. Before that her parents had split and Tara been removed further into the countryside by her mother who still works away. But now Tara, staying with uncle, aunt and cousin, is returning to the school she left two years ago, and getting used to all the changes is going to prove quite the shock to the system. In second-hand clothes and hastily cut hair, she's initially mistaken for a young lad called Ben and, early awkwardness of the misunderstanding aside, they start enjoying a little competitive running and maybe something else besides. But Tara is anxious that her mother intends to sell the land they once lived on because it's been in their family for generations...
Fall back to 1859, and a young girl called Josey Fraser finds her head turned when a man called Asa comes calling bearing evidence of gold. Her mother is suspicious of his true intentions, but then her mother is renowned for her anxiety including a number of visions in which she sees funereal possessions in advance of a death in the family. She's just seen another, and the prospect of her husband spending time in a mine rather than toiling in the fields worries her greatly
Aaaaaand I'll leave it there. Some truly spine-shivering moments in both time periods, but also a customary dash of bright, shining magic and Hope's finely tuned ear for innocent, friendly teasing. Here's Tara and her cousin after Ben speeds past on his bicycle making a light-hearted joke about their mistaken identities:
"What was that all about?! Did you give him our number?"
"Weirdo. Um - him, not you."
"With you, it goes without saying."
"I think he was flirting with me, but there's something about him.... He dresses nice and... Is he gay?"
"I don't think so... Oh, no. I know what it is. Julia's sister is good friends with him. He's from Toronto."