genre: young adult historical fantasy
Jeannie Guthrie's ordinary life as a farm hand in Scotland abruptly changes when, at 16, she believes herself to be the cause of a possibly disastrous circumstance. When she flees to London, she meets the adventurous and deeply curious Alexandra David, who introduces Jeannie into the Victorian world of spiritualists and esoteric thought. Jeannie becomes employed in the home of Madame Helena Blavasky, the theosophist, author and do-er of psychic feats like levitation and out-of-body projection.
In Blavasky's home, Jeannie is introduced to all kinds of London society and starts to realize some powers of her own. And while scientists are attempting to give some kind of credibly to Blavasky (or some proof to decry her as a fraud), Jeannie's relationship with Alexandra leads her into salons all over London and even into Paris.
The book had several things about it that caught my attention. The backdrop of late 19th century London and Paris was intriguing and felt very well researched - especially since I knew nothing about the this world of salons and seances and meta-physical feats. Jeannie's journal entry-type narrative felt so authentic, I was impressed with the author's consistency in Jeannie's tone and voice . I think young adult readers could really respond to both Jeannie's emotions as she gets to know herself and what she wants, as well as Alexandra's constant drive for "truth" and a "higher plane."
The plot moved pretty slowly, but I was interested enough that it didn't bother me too much, I was always happy to pick it up when I had a moment. A love story was there, a minor part of the book but pleasant all the same. The threads of "fantasy" are pretty thin, in the sense that it's really just historical fiction with a hint of "other worldliness." Often you get the sense that all that spiritual stuff of Madame Blavatsky's is just a con but then something happens that makes you think that there is some other sphere beyond our own that Jeannie and few others have access to. I think readers of the young adult genre would find this an interesting read.