A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Dark Unwinding, a satisfying debut from author Sharon Cameron, combines hints of gothic romance, complete with mystery and danger, with moral dilemmas, political intrigue, and ingenious Victorian gizmos. One of the leading characters is drugged with opium without her knowledge; she's also kissed mockingly by the villain as he leaves her to her fate. An explosion causes the deaths of several characters, while others die by mysterious violence. And a pet rabbit is shot dead.
What's the story?
In Victorian England, 17-year-old orphan Katharine Tulman has no money or expectations of her own and is at the mercy of Aunt Alice, mother of Katharine's self-indulgent cousin Robert, heir to the family fortune. Wishing to hasten her son's possession of the estate, Aunt Alice sends Katharine to visit her uncle, its current occupant, and have him declared insane. Katharine arrives to find her uncle eccentric but brilliant, a designer of ingenious machines with remarkable capabilities -- and the employer of hundreds of people plucked from the workhouses and given a decent life. Torn between doing her aunt's bidding, which she sees as her only hope for not ending up on the street herself, and her growing fondness for her uncle and the villagers, she also has to contend with mysterious events, people who aren't what they seem, and her attraction to a young man who assists her uncle.
Is it any good?
This book received the Sue Alexander Award for Most Promising New Work from the Society of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators, and the published version lives up to expectations. Plot twists, great characters and conflicts, a strong narrative voice, and a fully realized world of gaslights, steam engines, and 19th century technology bring to life a complex narrative that will delight young girls just getting acquainted with Victorian tales of mystery, manners and romance. Parents who love the genre will also find this a fine read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the differences between Victorian times and our own. What were the options for teenage girls in that society? What happened if you were poor or lost your job?
How do Katharine's changes in wardrobe reflect, and affect, her development as a character?
What other books have you read that feature 19th century technology and science fiction?
- Author: Sharon Cameron
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publication date: September 1, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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