Book Review: The Considine Curse by Gareth P. Jones
I really enjoyed this children’s book by Gareth P. Jones. Far more than I probably should have, given that I’m about fourteen years older than its intended audience!
Meet the wonderfully weird Considine children and their very normal cousin, Mariel, and discover the dark secret at the heart of their family.
Until recently, Mariel had no idea that she had any relatives at all, let alone a pack of long-lost cousins. And perhaps there is a good reason. Because Mariel’s family are strange… very strange indeed.
I have to admit I was drawn to this because of the lovely cover: traditional artwork with a bit of an Adams family, Victorian-gothic vibe going on and a host of interesting looking characters.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Straight away we are introduced to Mariel’s strangely hostile cousins, who she meets for the very first time at her grandmother’s funeral. They range from the shy Lily, glamorous Amelia, awkward and formal Gerald, obnoxious Oberon, easy-going Freddie, and the downright creepy and possibly psychotic Elspeth, who was my personal favourite.
It’s clear from the wary and rude welcoming that they give Mariel that she isn’t wanted or considered a ‘Considine’. Mariel, unsurprisingly, is annoyed by their attitude and by the whispered death threats (creatively delivered in verse form by the charming Elspeth). All the grandchildren were unusually close to their grandmother, yet none of them seem particularly upset that she is dead. And Mariel’s Aunts and Uncles don’t seem to regard her with quite the same reverence when asked about her. Then there’s the mystery of why Mariel’s mother chose to keep her far away for all those years. And how exactly did grandfather die?
All the characters in The Considine Curse have distinct personalities and were great fun to get to know. Mariel and her mother spend a few days at each of her Uncle’s houses and things get creepier by the day. There are violent animal attacks on life-stock and pets, strange howling at night and local folklore tells of the beast of Wilderdale. Mariel is furious she missed out on knowing her own family, but the more she discovers, the less certain she is that she wants to know them at all. And then her mother announces they’ll be moving back to the family home…
I guessed the family secret pretty easily, given some unsubtle clues, as I’m sure many readers will. Nevertheless, the story is highly enjoyable and well paced, revealing just enough at the right moments while raising more questions to keep the reader engaged. There is a highly unusual ending that I didn’t expect at all and actually left me rather unsettled, as did the ‘coaxing’ which I found beyond disturbing – but in a good way (as strange as that sounds). I like it when writers have the ability to leave me uncomfortable, long after I’ve finished the book, particularly when it’s deliberately intended.
The Considine Curse is a dark, twisted little tale that I think younger readers will really enjoy. Fans of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events will undoubtedly love this one.