A few years ago Masson wrote a series of books that gave classic folk tales a modern appeal. In this novel for YAs she gives Hamlet a similar treatment, setting her story in London in the 1860s. The result is a very approachable book for good readers of all ages.
Millie is general gofur for her father, director and stage manager of a professional theatrical company based in London. After the death of one of their leading actors, the company decides to produce Hamlet, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that they are still viable as a professional company. During auditions a strange, but talented young man gets a role. But Millie doesn’t trust him, and begins her own investigation into his past.
This book attracted my attention when I first saw it. I have always enjoyed Sophie Masson’s writing for kids, mostly because she challenges them to think beyond just the words on the page. Too many authors for kids are primarily interested in action and adventure and as a result too many students are unwilling to read ‘deeply’ and think. Masson may sell fewer books than others, but her fan base is going places.
Don’t get me wrong, there is heaps of action and adventure in this. Millie gets herself into all kinds of trouble, including kidnapping and drugs. But faithful friend Seth comes to the rescue, a comforting thought.
Best of all is the vision of London of the time. Masson has done her research and it is all there on the page. It is almost possible to feel you are walking through the various neighbourhoods as you follow Millie on her adventures. And the cast of characters is wonderful, from the extravagant leading man to the mysterious foreign stranger.