I requested and received a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay. Cover art by
Hilary McKay’s Skylark’s War was one of my favourite books of last year.
And this has leapt straight into my favourites of 2019. I wrote on twitter when I finished it that it felt like “a duvet day of a book” and it absolutely does. Released this week, it is the perfect read for cold but cosy autumn days as the evenings draw nearer.
Unlike The Skylark’s War, The Time of Green Magic is set in the present day. But, like Skylark’s, it deals with the thorny issues of growing up – friendships and fallings out and first crushes and family.
It specifically focuses on changes to the family dynamic, as Abi’s Grandma – who until now has helped bring her up – returns to Jamaica and she and her dad move in with his new partner and her sons, Max and Louie.
I was really pleased (but not at all surprised) to see the ‘everyday-ness’ of the difficulties in this change. You’ll find no wicked stepmother here, no cruel or tormenting older siblings, no-one ignored or bullied or mistreated. This is very much a book about the fact that change, especially a change in home and family dynamics, no matter how positively or lovingly handled, can be hard. And that that’s ok.
The way Hilary McKay writes families is both hugely perceptive and filled with warmth. Both here and in Skylark’s, her characters have a depth and reality that’s rare to see, and their relationships feel incredibly familiar and believable too.
The characters themselves are immensely likeable, especially little Louie who brought bags of humour to the book and utterly stole my heart!
Alongside these contemporary themes, it also ‘stars’ a wonderful old house, brimming with atmosphere, ivy and, it seems, magic.
This atmosphere is helped wonderfully by Hilary McKay’s masterful use of language. The description, phrases and vocabulary used are beautiful, funny, observant and detailed.
This combination of old and new, real and fantasy and the way nature and magic are intertwined with the way the characters cope with everyday struggles is very clever and well-balanced and gives the book a modern-but-not sort of feel. If it was a dress, it would be vintage but bang on trend today.
Abi is struggling with the upheavals in her life and we see her retreat into books. So immersed does she become that they almost feel real – she can smell, taste and touch it all, its almost like she’s there…
Meanwhile, six year old Louie is finding the change hard too and we see him cope with a new (imaginary?) friend Iffen – an increasingly big, cat-like something.
But is it all in their imagination? Or is there something else at play?
I loved the way this book took the ideas of imaginary friends and the way books can be an escape and made it real with an incredibly subtle and unique sort of magic. The best sort that leaves you questioning if it’s real, magic, imagination or a mix of the three.
This is an absolutely wonderful book and one of my favourites of the year. Full of humour, warmth and a magic all of its own.