Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen

I vaguely remember this book being published in 2009. I remember some intriguing reviews, and  liking the cover. Then I bought a copy of the audiobook at a used book sale in the Blue Mountains at least a year ago. Recently I found the audiobook again and one day popped it on in the car. I don't usually like listening to fiction. I find I get distracted and in fiction that matters more than nonfiction. But I (mostly) paid attention to The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen read by the talented Lucy Bell. Perhaps I'm getting better at audiobooks of whatever format. 

Twelve year old Aurelie Bonhoffen lives with her family on Gribblesea Pier. The Bonhoffen family have been running the fair on the pier for 100 years. But it is falling on hard times. The pier is in need  of major repairs and her family are struggling to keep up. 

I was in from the very start.

The girl lay in her coffin with a faint smile on her powder white face. She had been carefully laid out.  Gentle hands smoothed down her white silk dress, combed her soft curls, and brushed on her make up so that her cheeks looked like two faintly pink cherry blossoms. 

It's an intriguing start. The book is peopled with such wonderful Dickensian names- To and Fro the trapeze artists, Aurelie's school principal Mrs Farnhumple, and her teacher Miss Miel, surely a nod to that most lovely of teachers- Miss Honey from Roald Dahl's Matilda. The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen is a modern story set in England, but it is almost timeless, just a few mentions of cars to give it a modern feel. 

The Bonhoffen Seaside Pier location was inspired by Brighton Pier. Aurelie's family have lived on the Pier and worked the amusements there for 100 years. Time has taken it's toll though and the Pier has become a bit run down, and their are forces in town that would have the Bonhoffens removed from the Pier. 

It's beautifully descriptive but with action too. 

She stepped away from Argus' office and walked past the amusement arcade with its painted castle facade.  She noticed the flags were frayed and torn. One of the turrets had been worn through and was now home for a family of pigeons. Her eyes drifted to the merry-go-round. The noses of the horses were chipped, and so were their bellies where shoes had kicked into them from the stirrups. 
This book was published as The Ghosts of Gribblesea Pier in the US. I think The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen to be a vastly superior name. I'm not sure that I would have wanted to read it so much if I had known that this was a "ghost story". I feel that I outgrew ghost stories some decades ago. Having said that I ended up really enjoying it all even the ghostly aspects of the story. 

This is my first read of Deborah Abela, but I know it won't be my last. I'm very much looking forward to reading more of her work. 

Teachers notes for The Remarkable Secret of Aurelie Bonhoffen

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