After yesterday's great interview with the author here is my review of The Visitors...
I had a very good feeling about The Visitors. Set in late Victorian England with a female main character and a dash of ghostliness, it appealed to me enormously. I was right to feel good – I loved it and read it in one glorious sitting.
Adeliza Golding is deaf and blind. She’s a wild little thing, raging without any means of communication or external help in making sense of the world. She’s trying to absorb and process everything she can touch, smell, and taste but it’s not until she literally runs into Lottie that the world is unlocked. Lottie brings words in the form of the finger alphabet.
I found Liza’s earliest life heartbreaking and yet fascinating. Mascull’s descriptions of Liza’s efforts to understand the sensations she ceaselessly seeks are so interesting. Her body is receiving information but she lacks any frame of reference for it. The fundamental nature of this was brought home to me when she is finally able to learn her own name: ‘My name is Liza’. Before Lottie’s arrival, she had no way to name anything, not even herself.
Even in her pre-language years I found Liza’s desire to take in all of the world inspiring. She is without limits in her quest for knowledge. As her communication skills and confidence grow, Liza continues to push the boundaries of her knowledge and abilities. This takes her miles from her home in the pursuit of truth and justice.
Truth can be a difficult thing to accept, and the supernatural aspect of the story draws this out. Liza has known The Visitors in her head before she could understand what they were whispering to her. They are unseen by the sighted. Trying to understand who and what they are gives Liza an on-going sense of purpose.
The ways in which people perceived as different are treated comes under scrutiny. Liza is told to mind her ‘blindisms’, her grunts and facial expressions, and wears a ribbon over eyes when she has visitors to stop her sightless eyes causing them offence. It is tragic that Liza has to consider the gaze of others – they can look upon her, but she has no such privilege. Liza travels to South Africa, where differences are used variously to justify war, land grab and internment.
If you caught my interview with Rebecca yesterday, you’ll have seen how important I found the theme of imprisonment in the book. The other side of that, of course, is freedom – The Visitors shows ways in which people can be set free as well as contained. There is a lovely part where Liza discovers the power of stories and how the imagination can be unleashed. This is a gift never to be underestimated.
The Visitors is a brilliant story about one girl’s desire to communicate and learn, and the goodness and love that is given and returned manifold. It is allows you to think about huge concepts such as identity, equality, and humanity. It’s a book full of hope and one that I feel enriched for reading.
The Visitors is available now from Hodder & Stoughton. I want to thank Rebecca very much for sending me a copy of her novel; it found itself a happy home here with me.