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The Shell House Paperback – September 4, 2003
The Amazon Book Review
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Connected through time by a once stately mansion, now a burned-out shell of its former grandeur, two young men struggle with the contradictions between body and soul in both contemporary England and the barbed-wire battlefields of WWI. In 2002, Greg is a shy photographer who is elated to discover the ruins of Graveney Hall, a crumbling manor undergoing restoration. As he begins to photograph and explore the grounds, he mulls over the strange new feelings he's having for his classmate Jordan, an introspective boy on the school swim team. Meanwhile, he's also been befriended by Faith, an outgoing girl whose strong sense of spirituality draws Greg into several arguments about religion, causing him to wonder how his recent feelings for Jordan fit into the world of Faith's God. In 1917, Edmund is a young aristocratic soldier burdened by family expectations, the brutality of war, and a secret that could destroy his family. While he loves Graveney Hall, he knows that he will never produce the heir required for him to inherit it. Why? Because he is in love with Alex, his superior officer. Both Edmund and Greg strike bargains with God as each decides what he must to do to uncover his secret--or hide it forever.
Passionate and provoking, The Shell House will provide teens with food for thought on a number of compelling issues, including the search for identity, the question of spirituality, and how sexual ethics have changed over time. Fans of Aidan Chambers's similarly themed, Carnegie Award-winning novel, Postcards from No Man's Land, will also enjoy The Shell House. (Ages 13 to 18) --Jennifer Hubert --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
A pitch-perfect tale of contemporary teenage life intertwines with an overly dramatic if occasionally moving account of a privileged youth's literally life-changing experiences in the First World War. The modern-day story centers on Greg, who, with his longtime best friend attending another school, comes into his own. He makes friends with Faith, a sheltered and religious girl he meets while exploring and photographing the grounds of Graveney Hall, the shell house of the title, the skeletal remains of a stately home ravaged by fire in 1917. Meanwhile, Greg's thoughts are increasingly occupied by the self-possessed Jordan, an accomplished athlete whose reserved ways hide a piercing intellect and whose friendship takes on a romantic cast. The other narrative thread concerns Edmund Pearson, heir to Graveney Hall and an aspiring poet, whose world has been rocked by two events: the Great War and even more significantly his passionate affair with a fellow soldier, Alex. Scenes of Edmund and Alex at the front are compelling, but when Edmund visits his family (whom he now perceives as stifling and shallow) the novel takes on a callow, sniping tone, as in this description of his intended fiance: "She had a way of looking at him from under her eyelashes, doe-eyed. Presumably she thought it was appealing." The melodrama of these later episodes stands in contrast to the wonder and compassion that illuminate the bulk of this book. Ages 12-16.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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This book really took me back a few years, to that half-forgotten period of my late teens. Do any of you remember hanging out with your friends and chatting up a storm back when everything was so new, and your whole life just waiting to be explored? I haven't thought about those talks for a while, but all sorts of topics would come up in these earnest conversations---the nature of good and evil, what life is all about in the grand scheme of things, what sort of religious beliefs one does (or doesn't) hold, and why... And that's just how the friends in this book talk---man, makes me a bit nostalgic for my youth and a time before I became a bit jaded....
There really haven't been a huge number of books in my daily reading these past few years, that bring thoughts (and memories) like this to mind and put me in a contemplative mood. And in this respect, I think this novel put me very much in mind of the work of Madeleine L'Engle, an author who I've long admired---so for me that is high praise.
Both the flashback and the current-day story-lines are quite interesting, but the majority of the novel deals with the present day---the text isn't evenly divided into past/present sections. There are three major plot-lines in the book, and none of them is wrapped up in a neat little bow, though I will say that the ending in general has a hopeful tone. I really liked this book, and gladly recommend it.
(Not to mention, the entire sub-plot about the volunteers working on the remnants of the house and gardens of this once-stately manor seems tailor-made for me---just the sort of thing guaranteed to grab my interest!)
Interesting... the flower on the cover is a calendula, which symbolises grief, despair, and sorrow---quite appropriate for some of the WWI portions of the novel...
Vivid, flowing descriptions paint a memorable, picturesque integral setting in which the believable, fully-developed characters struggle to mature. Considering the controversial topics conveyed, this novel is remarkably free from didacticism, thus lending itself conducive to the reader to, in turn, strive to be true to his own reality. The unusually subtle denouement as well as the neutral tone of the author, merely reinforces this. The characters' antagonists are their own preconceived expectations of what life should be. Symbolism and metaphors are skillful embellishments that contribute to deeper meaning and impact of the theme of self-discovery. The story is very effectively written in first person narration, primarily by Greg and intermittently by Edmund. Each young man's chapter is introduced by his own means of self expression. A mental photograph, reflecting Greg's love of photography, begins each chapter narrated by Greg, and Edmund's chapters are initiated by his poems. Although this is a British novel and the slang is problematic for American youth, this will prove to be no hindrance to its appeal. Once the young reader deciphers the unfamiliar words, the language used may even become part of its appeal.
Most recent customer reviews
It is a very nice love story but I am convinced that if the two couples were hetrosexual rather than...Read more