The Seeing by Diana Hendry (ARC) - "What gave me a sudden shiver was the notion that there were two of me. The little sister me, who was good and mostly kind; the girl Alice and Dottie knew. And then there was this other me, the one lurking inside me, eager for danger and risk, for something that could be as wild as the sea in winter. For Natalie."
Nothing ever seems to happen in the quiet, respectable seaside town of Norton. The war is over, and everyone's thrilled to be living peacefully - everyone but thirteen-year-old Lizzie, who's so bored she feels like she could scream. Until wild, dangerous, break-all-the-rules Natalie arrives. Lizzie is drawn irresistibly to the exciting new girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and as the girls grow closer over the summer, Lizzie discovers a new side to the town - and to herself - that she had never imagined before.
Natalie and her young brother, Philip, let Lizzie in on a secret. Despite what everyone thinks, the danger of war is still hanging over them. Philip has a 'second sight', and all around him he sees evil: apparently innocent people, hiding in this quiet town until the time is right for revenge. Natalie and Philip call them 'Left-Over Nazis'. It's up to them to root these people out and force them out of Norton. Lizzie is swept up in what begins as an exciting game, but as the children begin to target their neighbours, the consequences of Philip's 'gift' spiral quickly out of control.
A chilling, powerful tale that will linger with you long after the final page, from Whitbread Award-winner Diana Hendry. From Amazon UK
This book! Oh my god, this book is like nothing I have ever read before! So completely disturbing, yet once it gets going, completely unputdownable!
There are 176 pages in The Seeing, so I picked it up back in March thinking it will be a super quick read, and as I was so intrigued, I felt fine about reading it back then as it wouldn't take up much of my time. However, I did find it seriously slow at the beginning. It took me a week to read 44 pages. Seriously. I just could not get into it. There was always something else I could be doing, and it felt like such a chore. I ended up picking it up from page 44 and forcing myself to read on, and once I finally got past the slow build up, I was sucked in.
What's wonderful about this book is that it is interspersed with entries from Natalie's diary and letters from Hugo, an artist who visits the town of Norton every summer, to his older sister, so we get Natalie's side of things, and a general view point of the three children. This is great because I wasn't entirely sure whether it was all going to be a game Natalie plays on Lizzie. It's not. Natalie firmly believes that her brother has the second sight and can see the Left Over Nazis. She is completely obsessed with finding them and getting rid of them. She is completely off her rocker.
But not only that, she can be very malicious. Lizzie is in awe of Natalie's free-spirit seeming ways, and kind of follows her blindly, even when her conscience starts to niggle at her, so with every person accused of being a Left Over Nazi, the taunts they have to suffer... it's just awful! It's bullying, plain and simple, and it's disgusting. But what's worse is, with Natalie's nature, you know something worse is coming, because she is such a dark and sinister character. From her diary entries, we can kind of see why she is the way she is, the awful life she's had, but I find I don't feel sorry for her, just appalled by her. This book is very much like a car crash; you don't want to look, yet you can't help it - and with this book, you don't want to read on for how sick to your stomach you feel, but you absolutely have to. Natalie is in serious need of a straight jacket.
What's also interesting is Philip's second sight. Is it just something Natalie has made up in her warped mind, or is there something more to it? Philip does say things now and again that seem odd or things he just shouldn't know. And he's too young to be playing a game himself, he is completely under the control of his older sister. But yet, there are things he says... which has you questioning the innocence of the "Left Over Nazis", even as you feel ridiculous for doing so. You're just never quite sure.
The ending is just wow. You know something like it is coming, but you don't know why or how exactly, so it's still a shock and is so, so sad. You just completely ache at how terribly sad it is. This is not a spoiler, because you are aware from the very beginning that this story doesn't end well, that there are no happy endings. But it does take you a little by surprise.
If there were to be any negatives for this book, other than the slow beginning, it would be that I'd rather there was more showing than telling when it came to what the people of Norton suffer at the hands of Natalie and Lizzie. I think it would have made it much more disturbing if we got to see more of it, I think that would have been a little better.
Overall, a dark, sinister, uncomfortable, yet tragic story that will shock you to your core over how much festering blackness can riddle one young girl. Highly recommended!
Thank you to RHCB for the review copy.
Published: 5th July 2012
Publisher: Bodley Head
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Diana Hendry's Website