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The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead

2.85 of 5 stars 2.85  ·  rating details  ·  690 ratings  ·  160 reviews
It is the summer of 1925. Emily Stewart and her brother, Michael, are thirteen-year-old twins—privileged, precocious, and wandering aimlessly around their family’s Philadelphia estate. One day Emily discovers an odd physical talent—she can secretly crack a joint in her ankle so the sound seems to burst in midair from nowhere. In their garden tea house, Emily and Michael ga ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Berkley (first published October 1st 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,287)
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karen
i seem to have a knack lately for choosing perfectly average books to read...

this is a book i failed to win as a firstreads giveaway (hhmph) but was still interested in. so i guess i'm not displeased that i didn't win, because i might have felt churlish giving a lukewarm review to something given to me for free, and had to live with the bad feeling that would have left in my soul. as it stands, i only have to feel a little bad. i can live with that.

so this is a historical novel centered around
...more
Dark Faerie Tales
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A slow and torturous journey into sibling boredom.

Opening Sentence: The girl who would speak for the dead stood alone on the cobblestone drive after the rain.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

There are very few books that I have a hard time reading; science manuals, anything recommended to me by my cousin, and this book. Why, you ask? Was it too long? Written in a foreign language? No, it was boring and too slow. I tried reading this book four times; it
...more
Staci
First thoughts after finishing this book: Hmmm....that was interesting and creepy.

What I liked about the book:

the author really created a sinister, dark atmosphere. So if you're looking for that type of read this one is it.
I couldn't decide if I liked Michael or not. Part of me kept thinking he was an evil, twisted child!
Emily- she was born a wise, old soul. It was interesting to watch how she internalized and really thought about how her so-called "spiritual readings" were affecting the peop
...more
Rachel
One day in 1925, 13 year old Emily Stewart discovers that she has an unusual ability – she can secretly crack a joint in her ankle that sounds like a mysterious knocking sound. Emily and her twin brother Michael decide to put on little performances for the neighborhood children and convince them that these “spirit knockings” are coming from a teenage girl who drowned nearby several years before. Word of these spirit knockings spreads and soon adults wanting to connect with dead loved ones of the ...more
Sara
I heard about this book through the FirstReads giveaways awhile back and put it on my to-read list. The title is great, the story sounded interesting, and now that I finally checked it out of the library to read... well, it was a little disappointing.

Emily and Michael are 13-year-old twins; after Emily discovers she can make a strange noise with her ankle, they decide to capitalize on this talent and put on shows in which they supposedly communicate with the dead, her invisible ankle trick the m
...more
Jennifer
The Girl Who Would Speak for the Deadby Paul Elwork

This was a rather creative idea put into writing, and turned into a fun and entertaining read! The book is about a scheme two precocious thirteen year old’s concoct to entertain, and spook the neighborhood children, by convincing them that the main character, Emily, can contact the dead. Like most childhood schemes, adults eventually find out, and Emily finds herself in predicaments deceiving adults and learning some of their deepest secrets. I
...more
Christine Trensen
The cover of THE GIRL WHO WOULD SPEAK FOR THE DEAD promises a creepy, atmospheric, perhaps Gothic tale. It conjures up seances, spectral sightings, restless spirits - all those delicious things that a tale of the supernatural promises.

Until you realize that this is not a supernatural book at all. Rather, it is a slow-moving, not very interesting book about 13-year-old twins, Emily and Michael. Emily discovers a talent for cracking her ankle bone in a way that makes it difficult to detect the sou
...more
Heather Stone
The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead

This is not a ghost story; it's about lies and the living ...

Reviewed by Heather Stone

Author: Paul Elwork

Publisher: Murdoch Books

Published: April 2011

Price: AU$29.99

Format: Paperback 310 pp

Category: Fiction

Can you, or do you know anyone who can crack their knuckles, or perhaps their toes? I could once crack my big toe joints quite loudly. This question is relevant just in case you were expecting a good gothic horror, or a spiritualistic drama. The story is no
...more
Imogen
I really liked the concept for 'The Girl Who Would Speak For The Dead', and I enjoyed the era in which it was set. While mainly taking place in 1925, the novel did backtrack a bit to include stories from the early 1900's and well as the late 1890s. I did not however, enjoy Paul Elwork's novel as much as I thought I would. After all the hype that surrounded the book on it's release I was excited to see how the novel would turn out, but I was quite disappointed. The ending I found extremely unfini ...more
fleegan
The description of the story and the cover of the book led me to believe that this novel was going to be kinda creepy, maybe spooky.
Maybe they start playing with Ouija boards and a bunch of demons take over? Maybe they really talk to a ghost? Perhaps they become possessed and kill all the adults?

No. Nothing. Nothing creepy, nothing spooky, nothing. Total letdown.

The book starts out strong. It's summer vacation, we all remember how boring it could be at times. Too old to play with toys, too young
...more
Steph
Not great, but definitely not the worst book I've read recently. It's creepy, a fact that stems not from ghosts but from long-hidden family secrets. The novel is loosely based on the Fox sisters, who started "spirit knocking" in the mid-nineteenth century and played a large part in the creation of the spiritualist movement. The story of the Fox sisters fascinates me, which is why I picked this up.

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead takes place in 1925. Thirteen-year-old Emily Stewart has disco
...more
Paul Jr.
Dec 08, 2008 Paul Jr. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of historical fiction and character studies.
Like the titular edifice, The Tea House is a bit of a mystery, a solid debut by Paul Elwork which, in some respects, defies description or categorization. It is a novel that goes down easily, with evocative prose and an unparalleled sense of time and place, but it is also a story that haunts your memory long after you’ve finished it, even though–and perhaps because–you are only given a quick glance inside, a moment in time to find all the lives and secrets hovering in its darkened corners.

At onc
...more
Felice
~~Sigh~~ The Girl Who Would Speak For The Dead. Love the title. Love the cover. Love the book? No. Deep like yes, but love? No. I would have loved it at 14 but not at 14 + a couple decades.


The genesis of the storyline is compelling. It's summertime 1925 and thirteen year old twins Michael and Emily are b-o-r-e-d. They have the luxury of boredom. Their family is well off and they have acres of freedom to enjoy. During the course of their idleness Emily figures out that by bending her ankle just
...more
Brittany
Michael and Emily are thirteen-year-old twins. When Emily shares with her brother that she can make a haunting knocking sound with her ankle without visibly moving it, he starts to think they could use this talent for something. So they start small "communing to the dead" in front of some of their friends; then to some older ladies who find them a complete delight. All too soon though, Emily sees that there may be repercussions for pretending to speak for the dead.

This books didn't really seem t
...more
Amateur de Livre
Review by Tim Gleichner

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave..." The first part of that quote seems quite an appropriate place to start the review of "The Tea House" by Paul Elwork.

The story concerns a set of twins, Emily and Michael Stewart. While their family is well-to-do, their home life is a bit mysterious and at times I sensed a bit of sadness. Emily discovers she has a unique "talent" one day, and initially has some fun with it. But once her twin, Michael, discovers her secret, he convinces E
...more
Kelly Hager
Shortly after their thirteenth birthday (in 1925), Emily and Michael start holding seances (for lack of a better word) with the neighborhood children. Emily's found that she can crack her ankle in such a way that nobody can see it move and it sounds like a knock. They call them "spirit knockings" and the children all agree to not tell their respective parents or family members. But, of course, that ends up not being true.

I really enjoyed this story, which is a combination of a family saga (there
...more
Lyndsey
I've really been into the ghost books here lately for some reason. This one was...interesting. It didn't blow me away but I am definitely interested and hearing what else the author can come up with. I think the main problem I had was with the MC. I just never connected to the main character and that's something that turns me away from a book fairly quickly. The concept was great and the prose was beautiful, but I just felt so "out" of the story almost the entire time I was reading. But I ended ...more
Tracee Gleichner
My husband read this book years ago and it has been sitting on my bookshelf since then. I know that he enjoyed it so when I was making my list of books to read this year I figured I would add it this time around.

At 172 pages, it will be one of the shorter books I will read, but I thought that might be the perfect length to begin the new year. I am sorry to say that even at 172 pages I struggled to make it through.

I was very intrigued by the premise of the story. Twins Michael and Emily (age 13)
...more
Rachel
13 year old, well-to-do and precocious twins Emily and Michael are bored in the summer of 1926(ish). When Emily learns that she can crack the joints in her foot to make an eerie knocking sound, Michael decides it's time to start having seances to commune with the dead. It begins with their friends in the neighborhood, but it quickly expands to adults, grieving over their dead lost to age, disease, and war. Then, it isn't quite such a game any more.

Add to that the history of the family mansion, t
...more
Caitlin
Ummm...what?

This is not a ghost story. This is a story about a girl who tricks people into thinking she can speak to ghosts through this clicking sound she makes with her ankle. People think the clicking sound is the ghost speaking, but it is her own little secret trick.

I really couldn't wait for this book to end. The background stories were somewhat interesting, hence the two stars instead of one. With all the going back and forth in time with the narration I was holding on for there to be som
...more
Letitia
Jan 02, 2008 Letitia rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
What a fabulous new book! Spooky and smart, Elwork has a gift for description that draws you in to this story, which has the feeling of an old classic, reminiscent of "Rebecca" by Du Maurier. This is a ghost story for people who don't believe in ghosts anymore. Touches on big issues without shoving them in your face. Loved it!
Krista Ivy
This book is a not so modern coming-of-age story. Thirteen year old twins are bored and want a new game. They are smart and want to involve others in their game. The girl discovers that she can make a knocking noise with her ankles without even having to move them. The boy then decides that they will pretend to channel ghosts using the knocking to answer simple yes and no questions. The boy then picks and chooses who they will share the spirit knocking with. At first, it is a boy and then a grou ...more
Darin
Paul Elwork expands his independently published debut "The Tea House" into the haunting and evocative The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead. Emily and Michael are precocious 13 year old twins, living in a large estate on the banks of the Delaware River near Philadelphia in 1925. Their father was killed in France where he served as a medic during the Great War and they live with their young mother Naomi and servant Mary.

Emily discovers a talent of making a loud knocking noise with her ankle but w
...more
Crystal
this novel proceeds from an interesting premise - it tells the story of thirteen year old twins who deliberately decide to 'fake' what they call 'spirit knocking' after discovering that the sister can make an unusual popping sound with her foot. what follows is an exploration of the manifold ways in which adulthood equals loss. Em & michael will come to learn that ghosts can take many forms and not all of them require death. they will also discover the truth of what they seemed to first know ...more
Corrie
This was an easy read, but there were two stories that were interwoven. I thought the second one was more interesting than the first.
Karen Bales
A ghostly atmosphere with no ghosts and no action. Real life is more exciting!
Sara
Dec 13, 2014 Sara marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads-won, own
i won this in the goodreads giveaway, can't wait to read it! :)
Elizabeth Desole
The story was engaging and kept me guessing whether the clairvoyance was supposed to be real or not. Unfortunately, it needed to be a lot more organized. Usually I'm ok with a narrative that toggles back and forth in time. Maybe it would be helpful if the main mother character didn't have a son and a brother both named Michael. Although it's not uncommon to have family names, it would make for a clearer narrative to have unique names for the characters. The character development was a bit weak a ...more
Wendy Hines
The Tea House is an intriguing tale of coming of age in the early 20th century. It is a tender-hearted novel rich with historical detail and suspense that reaches into the heart of family.

Emily and Michael are seemingly normal thirteen year olds. Though their father died in the war and their mother is constantly depressed, the twins find ways to keep themselves amused. When Emily learns she can make a loud, unusual noise from her ankle without moving it, she decides to play a prank on her brothe
...more
Erik
The first quarter of this novel did not hold me. I thought the prose at times wanted too badly to be southern gothic, and with the 1920's Philadelphia setting that just became cumbersome. At times the speech that he wrote for the children was too adult for 13 year olds. But once the plot moved from the exposition stage into the meat of the story, things started to pick up. His prose, which earlier seemed shaky and not connected with the characters or setting, improved and became less evident. Th ...more
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“Sometimes Naomi marvelled at how much [children] seemed to know, how their chatter and play landed nearly square on adult matters of love and loneliness and disappointment and joy and regret. It sometimes seemed that they came to these things with clearer eyes than adults who talked themselves out of too much.” 1 likes
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