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29 October 2018

Review by Bethany O’Regan – Global Assistant PR Manager

We first meet our protagonist, Makepeace, awakening from a nightmare (the name Makepeace is due to their Puritan religion – trust me, you get used to it!). And immediately, we’re thrown straight into the action. You’re in England (Poplar to be specific) and there’s rumblings of a Civil War – so yup, we’re back in the 1640s. But this isn’t your standard historical fictional novel, this one has ghosts. Okay, so maybe that’s not that unusual. But in SKINFUL, they can live inside the minds of certain people. Specifically to this story, it’s the Fellmottes, a very well-to-do family with close ties to the King. Makepeace (who at the start seems like a normal 17th century tween) demands to know more about her father, from a seemingly cold Mother. There’s some drama after this (#spoilers) but ultimately Makepeace ends up working at Grizehayes Manor (aka the Fellmotte Estate).

So what does this Makepeace get up to, I hear you wondering? Well, make peace she does not. She finds herself caught between a new friend and an old one (who may or may not be a spirit in her mind), a VERY dysfunctional family, and the Parliamentarians and Royalists, as her personal struggles are played out and contrasted with the downfall of English politics. Frances Hardinge manages to make a small, intimate moment out of an otherwise wider historical event, making the impersonal, personal.

I would say A Skinful of Shadows is unlike any book I’ve read before – some others in the office who tried to read it said it was too scary/too historical/too unbelievable – but they’re all the things I loved about it! I haven’t read any of Hardinge’s novels before – but will definitely look into them now.

Discussion questions:

What did you think of the Mother? Did your opinion of her change during the novel?

Do you think the historical setting helped or hindered the story?

How do you think the story would have differed if Makepeace had a different spirit in her mind?

We hope you enjoyed A Skinful of Shadows as much as we did, now it’s time to get stuck in to our Happily Ever Lather pick for November – Ash Princess

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