Stephanie's Reviews > The Ghost At the Point

The Ghost At the Point by Charlotte Calder
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Jun 16, 12

bookshelves: middle-grade
Read in June, 2012

This review originally appeared at www.readinasinglesitting.com.


One of the cupboard doors in my kitchen has a habit of creaking open of its own accord. I’ll close it, only to watch it promptly swing open again, as though it simply can’t abide being shut. It’s not so concerning when I notice that it’s already all the way open, but watching it in action is, well, quite an unnerving experience. However, being the Scully-like person that I am, I now know what the door does what it does: there’s a gap in the mortar in the bricks behind it that lets in a draught.

Dorrie Jose, a young girl living on an isolated island off the Australian coast in the 1930s, however, has her own ghosts. Not only is there the spectre of her lost parents and the fact that her grandfather, with whom she lives, is slowly ailing, but now there’s something new. Two so-called historians have been regularly visiting Dorrie’s home under the guise of taking photographs, something that Dorrie’s grandfather suspects is but a front, especially when their manner becomes eerily determined. Simultaneously, there’s news of a shipwrecked boat and the way that the deaths of those onboard underscores the notable absences in Dorrie’s hamlet, which is still wracked by wartime casualties. And last, but certainly not least, there’s the strange, shadowy figure she keeps glimpsing around her home at night–something that surely can’t be of this world.
The truth behind Dorrie’s ghost is not as prosaic as my haunted cupboard, but it’s quite clear from early on what we might be dealing with. However, Dorrie’s ghost becomes the impetus for her to not only seek to protect her home from the treasure hunting “biographers”, but also to seek out the reasons why this couple is so fixated on her family’s past and on her home.

The Ghost at the Point is not the read I expected it to be from my cursory glance at the cover and blurb–it’s not a young adult novel, but one for much young readers. It is, however, a solid one, albeit one that occasionally dithers between being a comic work and a more serious one, with the comic nature coming out in full slap-stick fashion towards the end of the book. There are some beautiful turns of phrase here, too, that very simply describe the devastation wrought by the recent war on the township.

Although I picked the twist early on, Calder does an excellent job of making something truly curious from it and incorporating it into the plot rather than allowing it simply to be a twist for a twist’s sake. I enjoyed Dorrie’s gung-ho, unselfconscious nature and where this, and her ghostly epiphany, led. There were however, a few scenes, such as the one involving her decision to sneak home alone, which I felt were used to progress the narrative but didn’t necessarily quite ring true.

The comparison of the foreign and familiar is also quite neat, although I can’t help but feel that given Australia’s notoriously racist past the shipwreck might had been looked upon slightly differently by the adults in the town. Still, the suggestion that so many families come from diverse pasts, and pasts which have often been buried at that, is a worthy one, and is welcome as a discussion point in a book that’s pitched, as this is, for much younger readers. I thought that the Spanish language scenes were especially well done, and helped emphasise this point.

In all, this one’s a quick, surprising read, although I did feel that perhaps it was a little more slight than I was expecting, and the ending a touch pat.
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