Here’s a lovely ghost story, which I was fortunate enough to read for the Cybils right around Halloween.
The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter. Tundra Books, 2014.
In 1963 Toronto 1963 two lonely girls discover that they are neighbors and make friends. Lonely Rose is too often left alone in her big house as her parents work. Polly, on the other hand, is lonely because of living in a house crowded with so many children that she feels ignored. The houses connect through the attics, in homage to Polly and Diggory’s attics in The Magician’s Nephew. They also overlook a large old cemetery, and this provokes much discussion between the girls. Polly has been obsessed with ghosts her whole life and longs to see them in the cemetery. She hopes that quiet, pale Rose might be one herself. Rose, on the other hand, hates ghosts. She sees them all over, constantly asking for things, and wishes she couldn’t. The thought that she might be one is dreadful. Together, the two girls discover things hidden in Rose’s house that reveal secrets about her family’s past, at the same time trying to avoid the terrifying “Door Jumper” ghost that tries to jump on Polly every time she comes over.
Polly and Rose’s friendship develops beautifully, helping both of them grow. There are more mysteries than either girl is aware of at first. The whole story is told in short chapters, mostly alternating between the two girls’ perspectives. It went places I did not expect, places that left me lying awake in bed worrying about the girls and crying actual tears when the truth was revealed. Sad and spooky are not places I normally look to go in my reading, but The Swallow does both of these things very well, with a rare and pleasant Canadian feel to boot. Happily for tender-hearted readers such as myself, the book ends on a note that is hopeful as well, making this a good choice for those who like quiet but creepy ghost stories.
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