Published by Text Publishing on August 29th 2016
Genres: Children's Fiction, Paranormal
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When Elizabeth and her unusual and fearless friend Zenobia arrive at Witheringe House, peculiar things begin to happen.
Especially in the forbidden East Wing.
The flowers and vines of the wallpaper sometimes seem to be alive.
A mirror has a surface like the water of a pond.
And an old book tells a different story after midnight.
Zenobia is thrilled by the strangeness, but Elizabeth is not so bold...
Until she makes a mysterious and terrifying discovery.
When Elizabeth’s mother runs away, Elizabeth and her father move to his childhood home of Witheringe House, along with Elizabeth’s friend Zenobia, even though her father insists she’s too old for an imaginary friend. When they arrive at Witheringe House, Zenobia insists that it is the perfect place for a spirit to be living, and she sets out to discover one. Elizabeth doesn’t much like this idea, especially when strange things start to happen around the house…
Elizabeth and Zenobia is a story about the girls’ adventures around the house, and Elizabeth’s father’s discoveries of the Plant Kingdom. It’s a delightfully creepy and imaginative story, but also holds an undercurrent of an adult story about an abandoned husband and daughter.
I think one of the things I like most about it is that nothing is actually explained. I was left wondering whether Zenobia was Elizabeth’s imaginary friend, or whether she was some kind of ghost, or even if Elizabeth had just dreamed the whole thing up. It gives the whole story a child-like wonder, and once I realised that, I had to force my adult brain to stop looking for explanations and just embrace the weirdness.
I read this Text Prize shortlisted story while deep in Empire-of-Storms-hangover mode, and it was just enough of a different thing to pull me out of it. I really enjoyed Elizabeth and Zenobia, and I think middle grade readers will also.