Published 2 January 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton
Paperback published 17 July 2014
Imagine if you couldn’t see
Then one day somebody took your hand and opened up the world to you.
Adeliza Golding is a deaf-blind girl, born in late Victorian England on her father’s hop farm. Unable to interact with her loving family, she exists in a world of darkness and confusion; her only communication is with the ghosts she speaks to in her head, who she has christened the Visitors. One day she runs out into the fields and a young hop-picker, Lottie, grabs her hand and starts drawing shapes in it. Finally Liza can communicate.
Her friendship with her teacher and with Lottie’s beloved brother Caleb leads her from the hop gardens and oyster beds of Kent to the dusty veldt of South Africa and the Boer War, and ultimately to the truth about the Visitors.
Adeliza (Liza) Golding was born with little sight and when she is 3 years old, scarlet fever takes away her hearing and cataracts remove her remaining sight. She is now deafblind and mute and lives in a world of confusion and frustration. As a result, she begins to run wild and the only way to control her is to physically restrain her by tying her to a chair. Her fragile mother retires to her bedroom and has very little contact with her daughter so initially Liza’s main carers are her brutish nanny and her devoted father. Her salvation arrives in the form of Charlotte (Lottie) Crowe, a young woman staying with her family on Liza’s father’s hop farm for the hop picking season. Lottie has experience of deaf blindness and with time and infinite patience brings to an end Liza’s lonely and isolated existence by teaching her to communicate and giving her the confidence to live a normal life.
This debut novel from Rebecca Mascull could be described as historical fiction/a love story/a ghost story as it encompasses all three genres. I sometimes find that historical fiction can be a bit dry however this is a beautifully written account of Liza’s transition from a dark and lonely childhood to experiencing her first love and finding her place in the world.
The characters are expertly drawn and it is clear that detailed research has been undertaken. I had heard of the Boer War, although I knew very little about it. When Lottie’s brother Caleb enlists as a soldier to fight for his country, his letters home bring to life the reality of war – the initial excitement of action giving way to the weary resignation of the death and destruction endured. I thought this was a very effective way of including the war in the story without making the narrative feel like a history lesson.
As a child, Liza’s lack of sight had given her an extra sense – she could see and communicate with ghosts – the Visitors. At first she doesn’t understand these visions and why she alone can see and hear them. However, as the story progresses, this gift of hers comes to the fore and she learns how to use this gift to its full advantage. I have to admit, this was the weakest part of the story for me and although I could see how they were relevant to the story, I wasn’t totally convinced by the paranormal aspect.
I loved both the characters of Liza and Lottie. Despite the obstacles to be overcome, Liza’s enthusiasm for learning and experiencing new things in life were superbly written, as was the friendship and devotion between her and Lottie.
I really enjoyed this original and thoughtful debut novel and look forward to reading more by this very talented author.
I received my paperback copy through the Amazon Vine review programme.
About the author:
Rebecca Mascull lives by the sea in the east of England with her partner Simon and their daughter Poppy. She has previously worked in education and has a Masters in Writing. The Visitors is her first novel.