Allison Rushby, The Ghost Locket, Walker Books Australia, March 2022, 256 pp., RRP $17.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760654139
Eleven-year-old Lolli (Olivia) is absolutely sick at the thought of returning to the family home in Spitalfields, London; however, here she is with Freya, direct from Singapore, to help set up the house next door for the Christmas period and its many potential holiday visitors. For Lolli, the memories of her previous experience with this home border on a combination of fear and a degree of paranoia and she is only spurred on by her deep affection for Freya (her Mum’s best friend and guardian). Lolli is aware that her mother suffered from mental health issues and died when she was only three months old. Freya had become her substitute mother, somewhat by default, and they are as deeply connected as any natural mother and daughter could be. Lolli’s much-loved great-aunt Elsie, is the owner of this unforgettable old house and a precious family member.
The house is a museum of sorts but not really. In fact, each room reflects a different historical period reminiscent of how it once looked when lived-in by various families. For the yuletide visitors it is a source of pleasure and amazement; however, for Lolli it triggers frightening memories that she would rather not awaken. As a baby she knows that going into the house resulted in her screaming and fussing, and she vividly remembers her last visit when she was almost crushed by an overwhelming and unexplained force.
Lolli knows that her beloved great-aunt Elsie needs her help and so she strives to overcome her fears and anxieties and channel her energies into finding harmony between the living and the twilight spheres of existence. Only then will there be the peace that all parties so desperately need and seek. Readers will enjoy and appreciate the steady revelation of clues and historical facts, to help understand Lolli, her life, and the bridge between her world and the people in it.
Allison Rushby has written a book that demonstrates her talent for creating edgy, spine-chilling, weirdness for middle aged readers, and at the same time strikes a worthy balance between good and evil. Pitched perfectly for her target audience, as found with many of Allison’s other books to date, there is just the right amount of nightmarish detail to make a young reader scared but without being completely horrified and looking for things lurking in the shadows evermore. As the twilight story unfolds, readers are simultaneously impacted by the strength and the unity of family, unconditional love, and the importance that the sense of belonging plays in all our lives.
Highly Recommended for middle years readers aged 9 -12 years.
Reviewed by Julie Deane