Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Root Cellar

Author: Janet Lunn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children's, Canadian
Type: Paperback
Pages: 335
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Lester and Orpen Denny's Ltd.
First Published: 1981
First Line: "It was a cold wet afternoon in October when Rose Larkin came to live in the house at Hawthorn Bay."

Book Description from GoodReads: It looked like an ordinary root cellar—And if twelve-year-old Rose hadn't been so unhappy in her new home, where she'd been sent to live with unknown relatives, she probably would never have fled down the stairs to the root cellar in the first place. And if she hadn't, she never would have climbed up into another century, the world of the 1860s, and the chaos of Civil War…

My Review:  I read this book back when I was about 11 years old and I remember being utterly entranced by it as it transported me to different eras that, until then, I knew nothing about.  Even after a few decades have passed I still vividly remember the images it invoked in me as I read it so I opted to read it again for my 2015 Reading Challenge.

This book has a lot going on for such a short book.  It's a historical fiction read for children with some fantasy (hence the time travel) plus action and adventure.  There were a couple of times when I was on the edge of my seat (especially near the end - wow!).  Overall, The Root Cellar is a sweet coming of age story of a plucky young orphaned girl and her deep friendship with two people from the past.

The magic behind this book is Lunn's writing style which has a very easy going vibe to it.  While the pace of the book is rather slow (with some action thrown in here and there) it's her characters and descriptions of the settings that make the book feel authentic. I think part of that has to do with her great use of the speech and vocabulary that was used during both eras that Rose lives in.  Lunn's descriptions of Rose's time (1960's Canada) and the United States in the 1860's were vivid and a big part of why this book has stayed with me.  It felt authentic and like you were there with Rose but her descriptions of post American Civil War didn't hold back any punches.  They're not gory but there is quite a bit of emotion regarding the state of soldiers and how these boys and men find out the devastating truth about war and how they were treated post-war.

The friendship that Rose has with Susan and Will was strong yet sweet but it was the ups and downs that Rose and Susan face on their adventure that felt the most real to me. Friendship isn't all 'rainbows and unicorns' and Lunn provides a very accurate description of the different sides of friendship.

This was once again a great read and a Canadian classic for tweens.  While my 11 year old self would still give this book a 5 star rating, this *ahem* 40-something year old book reviewer thinks that it's more of a 4 star. Still a great read with simple dialogue that deals with the effects of war, friendship, family, loss and finding our own way to belong.

Note: Some editions provide a rather lengthy and informative interview with the author which I quite enjoyed.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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