Publisher: UK – Harper Collins Children’s Books
Everybody says that Gwendolyn Chant is a gifted witch with astonishing powers, so it suits her enormously when she is taken to live in Chrestomanci Castle. Her brother Eric (better known as Cat) is not so keen, for he has no talent for magic at all. However, life with the great enchanter is not what either of them expects and sparks begin to fly!
I picked this book at a charity book sale after reading Emma’s wonderful post on Diana’s books as I haven’t read any of her books for a very long time. Charmed Life is one of her more famous books but I have to admit I haven’t read it before. I wasn’t quite sure what I would find – after all books enjoyed in childhood can be very different when read through adult eyes. I didn’t need to worry though!
Charmed Life is set in an alternative version of Earth where magic is prevalent and so are paddle boats, castles and old fashioned money – think Enid Blyton crossed with J.K. Rowling. Cat and his sister are orphans living with a witch with limited talent, Mrs Sharp when they catch the attention of Chrestomanci and are moved to a castle. Once there Gwen tries everything she can to capture the attention of the great Chrestomanci, while Cat can only look on in horror...
A short, fun read that feels perhaps a little twee now but considering it was first published in 1977 has aged well (the alternative world helps overcome most differences!). Cat is character that is often overlooked in favour of his talented sister, but has such a strong loyalty to her that you feel his struggle between doing the right thing and his sister. Chrestomanci is aloof and mysterious – with a fantastic range of dressing gowns! – that I just wanted to know more him – and his wife Millie. Overall, the writing is aimed at a younger audience – more pre-teens than teenager, but the imagination especially in the second half is top notch. Great fun and easy to see why it’s now considered a children’s classic.
Recommended for fans of Harry Potter and Isobelle Carmody. 7.5 out of 10.