The House of Light is a gorgeous book, which skilfully blends stirring descriptions of the natural world with the drama and excitement of a dystopian adventure and a deep emotional meditation on the value of those we love, those we lose and those we leave behind.
Bonnie lives with her Granda by the coast in a not-so-distant future Britain where freedoms have been curtailed and the right to travel has disappeared, along with much of the technology we currently enjoy. Despite the loss of her mother at a young age and a hankering for adventure, Bonnie is generally happy in her loving home with Granda; growing their vegetables, tending their hens and telling stories. Until the arrival of a boat and a boy widens her mind to the possibility of following her mother over the sea and escaping to a better life.
The relationship between the boy, Ish, and Bonnie develops beautifully from mistrust and fear between two damaged children to a deep empathy and indestructible bond. They are young, they are resilient, and they will risk anything to seek wider horizons. Granda, however, is at the opposite end of his journey, his physical horizons narrowing but his yearning for freedom as strong as ever. The final chapters of the book are heart-breaking and uplifting in equal measure.
The House of Light is a beautifully crafted work, one of Julia Green’s best yet, and my favourite book of 2019 so far. The accessible and well-paced writing, the poignant characters and storyline make it almost impossible to put down. I will be pressing it fervently into the hands of KS2 readers who need to believe in the ability of compassion and hope to overcome darkness and fear.
Reviewed by: Carol Carter, Librarian