Staying on the theme of books set in World War I, A.M. Howell delivers a delightful debut about secrets, mystery and bravery.  I love that this is set in Suffolk, where I am living and that I can visit Ickworth House, which served as inspiration for the novel.

Clara is sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle in the Suffolk countryside while her father convalesces after being gassed in the war.  Sadly, they are not the happy, loving family she was hoping for and a sharp slap leaves her untrusting of her aunt.

As Clara adapts to her aunt and uncle, she becomes suspicious of activities around the estate they live on.  A mysterious boy appears at night, fruit is disappearing from the hothouses and what is Aunt Elizabeth hiding in the locked room?

It is up to Clara to solve each mystery, and although her heart is in the right place, more often than not, her actions lead to trouble.

We learn so much about heartache, loss and grieving with Clara as she learns about the secrets being kept. We learn about bravery and determination in the actions of Clara and her new friend Will.

This book brought back happy memories of reading classics such as The Secret Garden in my childhood. There is a classic feel to the way the story unfolds, the interactions with the characters and the references to life during World War I.  The rural setting and the hothouses and gardens are lovely and worth a visit if you are ever in Suffolk!

A brilliant debut and one I would highly recommend!
I am looking forward to meeting Ann-Marie in June when she visits a couple of the schools in my trust!

A new classic in the making!

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