WEETMAN, Nova The Haunting of Lily Frost UQP, 2014 204pp $19.95 pbk ISBN 9780702250156 SCIS 1660769
Our introduction to the protagonist of Nova Weetman’s debut novel, Lily Frost is through a memory ‘I almost died when I was five.’ And it is this powerful opening line that sets the tone and connecting threads for this well paced coming of age/thriller.
Fifteen year old Lily and her best friend Ruby are neighbours. They live in Melbourne where school, friendship and boys are the focus of their existence. So when Lily’s parents make a change of life decision and move the family to the small country town of Gideon, two hours drive from the city, Lily is devastated. She also becomes the outsider in a small tight knit community that has its own secrets.
It doesn’t take Lily long to realize that the old house her parents have bought is haunted and Lily seems to be the target of strange happenings in her attic bedroom. Lights going on and off, cold air, watery foot-prints appearing and a strange muddle of letters carved into the floor of her room. But is she imagining it all? And if she’s not, what can it mean? The cute boy next door, Danny and the local grape-vine soon alert Lily to the fact that a missing teenager Matilda, Tilly to her friends, had lived in the house but no one is prepared to give too much away so Lily is forced to do her own investigating.
Soon after Lily’s arrival in Gideon water and the river reintroduce themselves as a key theme: Lily is continually being lured back to the water, the silent witness to a life changing event but also a symbol in the story for the power of love. In its primal form water can be understood as the giver or taker of life. Despite the fact that greater exploration of this theme may have added a depth and texture to the story, this is a well written and for the most part suspenseful novel. Winner of the HarperCollins Fellowship and the FAW Award for best unpublished manuscript this will appeal to a twelve plus readership. Highly recommended.
reviewed by Meredith Capp