Author: Charis Cotter
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Synopsis: In 1960s Toronto, two girls retreat to their attics to escape the loneliness and isolation of their lives. Polly lives in a house bursting at the seams with people, while Rose is often left alone by her busy parents. Polly is a down-to-earth dreamer with a wild imagination and an obsession with ghosts; Rose is a quiet, ethereal waif with a sharp tongue. Despite their differences, both girls spend their days feeling invisible and seek solace in books and the cozy confines of their respective attics. But soon they discover they aren’t alone–they’re actually neighbors, sharing a wall. They develop an unlikely friendship, and Polly is ecstatic to learn that Rose can actually see and talk to ghosts. Maybe she will finally see one too! But is there more to Rose than it seems? Why does no one ever talk to her? And why does she look so… ghostly? When the girls find a tombstone with Rose’s name on it in the cemetery and encounter an angry spirit in her house who seems intent on hurting Polly, they have to unravel the mystery of Rose and her strange family… before it’s too late.
Huge thank you to Tundra Books and Netgalley for this ARC!
I love ghost stories, and the more authentic they feel, the more I find myself connecting to it. The Swallow is beautiful in every sense of the word — gorgeous prose, strong, well developed characters, and the power to keep the reader guessing from start to finish. It has a very classic feel to it, so all the suspense keeps building, building, building until you hit the surprise and it’s a good one, I must say!
What initial drew me to this book was that it was a ghost story set in Toronto in the 60s. Toronto has a very rich paranormal history (lots of haunted buildings and mysteries afoot), so to read about Toronto and know where every location was mentioned in the story made me really happy. I admit, I love reading about the city I live in and being able to visualize it crystal clear. I feel like Cotter did an amazing job accurately describing the city and making it so recognizable.
Then comes Polly and Rose who are the heroines of this story, and they were magical. They have such a beautiful friendship and meet on such similar terms, but have enough differences that each girl is her own entity. The narrative voice does often make them a bit similar, so I wish the voices had been more distinctive and not just their personalities. Furthermore as the mystery is unravelled other characters, as well as the girls do a really good job of tricking the reader to throw them off course as to who the ghost is. It’s so well done, and I flew this book because I just loved the characters and the mystery was so engaging throughout.
Although this novel is classified as middle grade, I think there’s enough complexity and intrigue to keep even young adults entertained. Although the point of view change happens fast and frequently, I don’t feel like it’s too difficult to follow, though that really will depend on the kind of reader you are. This is a perfect fall or Halloween read, and I know for me personally, is one that’ll stick with me a good, long while.