Book Review: The Chestnut Roaster

From the publisher:

Who can catch a memory thief? ‘ An unforgettable adventure ‘ THE TIMES BOOK OF THE WEEK. “Starting on All Fools Day, twelve years ago, I remember everything. EVERYTHING. That was a wet Saturday, and that was the day I was born.” 12-year-old Piaf has the ability to (and burden of) remembering everything that has happened since the day she was born. When she discovers everyone in Paris has forgotten the entire last year, 1887, including the disappearance of several gifted children, Piaf and her twin brother Luc embark on a dangerous journey that brings them to the depths of Paris’s underground twin, the Catacombs, to capture the memory thief and find the lost children.

This is a fun adventure by fellow Irish author Eve McDonnell, set in Paris in 1888 as the city prepares for the World Fair and to celebrate a hundred years since the fall of the Bastille. The story has a great premise, and things I particularly like about the book include:

The Setting: The story has a delightful Parisienne charm but I loved the fact that so much of the story takes place in Paris’s underground twin, the tunnels or catacombs beneath the city.

Pilaf: Our 12-year-old heroine suffers from hyperthymesia, a condition where an abnormally number of life experiences are retained in vivid detail. I love the depiction of Pilaf’s restlessness and how she has her tricks to keep herself attached to the present to avoid being lost in her past, twisting a favourite button, for example. Her relationship with twin brother Luc is endearing, and I love how they reconnect despite Luc having a very different memory problem.

The talents of the stolen children: In particular the delicately carved chestnut leaf which has a very definite purpose which I won’t mention to avoid spoilers, but I loved it.

Empress Josephine: If you’ve read the book, you’ll know why!

On a side note, the people of Paris are amazed to see the Eiffel Tower half-built overnight and the Cathedral of Notre Dame cleaned so quickly. I did wonder about all the other things that happen over the course of a year, from births, deaths and marriages, to moving house, physical changes in yourself and your family, the vagaries of your finances… It would be terrifying! This musing, by the way, is totally irrelevant to the story of The Chestnut Roaster, which fortunately didn’t travel along this random path.

TOTP also really enjoyed the book, although he is sorry there was no canine rep. Apart from that, the book gets a paws up from him as well. The Chestnut Roaster was published October last year, and is definitely worth checking out.

20 responses to “Book Review: The Chestnut Roaster”

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