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The Butterflies of Meadow Hill Manor

THE BUTTERFLIES OF MEADOW HILL MANOR by Stefanie Parks.

The Book Guild Ltd. p/b. £7.49.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

Twelve-year-old Amy is leaving London to live with her Aunt Wilhelmina at Meadow Hill Manor in Belper, Derbyshire, sent there by her parents to ‘recover’, as they call it. Bad enough that her father refers to his sister as ‘Weirdo Wilma’. Bad enough that the house is cold and dark. There is no wifi. She will have to go to a new school. Everything has changed.

Amy hears strange noises coming from the tower room above her bedroom at night, and from outside, she can see a light on there, even though the tower has no electricity. Eventually, curiosity overcomes fear, and Amy discovers the truth about Meadow Hill Manor and its magic. Magic that is available to her as a female of the family. It is a magic that must be employed carefully, however, and only for the benefit of others.

The Butterflies of Meadow Hill Manor is juvenile fiction, which places Amy’s story at the very heart of its tale. Its themes of grief, anxiety and the strategies a young person may employ to cope with tragic and life-changing events are deep and explored in full, though with a careful and respectful hand.

The story tracks Amy’s slow journey, from a life closed off from the world around her to the gradual acceptance that her life goes on as she takes small steps towards moving on. With her aunt to teach her about the magic and a steadfast new friend helping her through school life, Amy can move into the next stage of that recovery her mother is so desperate for her to find.

The prose carries the constant weight of Amy’s sadness, weaving it beautifully throughout the tale. Amy begins as a young girl who has blocked out all external and internal factors, even her own identity, going through the motions of life with disinterest, focused only on strategies of self-preservation. Parks leads her heroine back into the light in an engaging and inspiring manner. A touching reminder that there may still be hope.

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