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278 pages, Paperback
First published March 7, 2013
“I do, I’m afraid, understand books far more readily than I understand people. Books are so easy to get along with.”
“Think of night-time with a speaking voice. Or think how moonlight might talk, or think of ink, if ink had vocal chords.”
“It was the green that emeralds and dragons usually come in; which felt to Sophie like a good omen.”
“They did not taste remotely like strawberries, but they did taste like adventure.”
"They told me that she was dead, and I didn’t believe them. Why did she believe it? Why didn’t she keep looking?"It is difficult to believe extraordinary things when you're an adult. But children can, which is why Katherine Rundell's wonderfully fanciful book won both the Waterstone and Blue Peter prizes for children's literature when it came out in 2014. By the same token, it is difficult for an adult to review; we can celebrate the times we share a childlike delight, certainly, but how can we be sure that when it gets a little repetitious to us, it is not in fact drawing the child reader even deeper into its spell?
"My darling, because she is an adult."
Sophie ducked behind her hair. Her face was hot and tight and angry. "That’s not a reason."
"It is, my love. Adults are taught not to believe anything unless it is boring or ugly."
"That’s stupid of them," she said.
"Sad, child, but not stupid. It is difficult to believe extraordinary things. It’s a talent you have, Sophie. Don’t lose it."
The baby was found wrapped for warmth in the musical score of a Beethoven symphony. It had drifted almost a mile from the ship, and was the last to be rescued. The man who lifted it into the rescue boat was a fellow passenger, and a scholar. It is a scholar’s job to notice things. He noticed that it was a girl, with hair the color of lightning, and the smile of a shy person.As the lady from the National Childcare Agency will often point out, Charles has little idea of how to bring up a female infant. But he is both imaginative and kind. Soon Sophie (for that's what he calls her) is enjoying the kind of upbringing any child would dream about, with lots of exciting things to explore and no silly rules about dressing like a little lady or not writing on the walls. Charles's idea of a perfect birthday treat is eating a tub of ice-cream on top of a coach-and-four galloping around Hyde Park in the rain. And he reads to her from Shakespeare and takes her to concerts, at one of which she hears a cello and falls in love. So he buys her one:
Think of nighttime with a speaking voice. Or think how moonlight might talk, or think of ink, if ink had vocal cords. Give those things a narrow aristocratic face with hooked eyebrows, and long arms and legs, and that is what the baby saw as she was lifted out of her cello case and up into safety. His name was Charles Maxim, and he determined, as he held her in his large hands—at arm’s length, as he would a leaky flowerpot—that he would keep her.
The cello they bought was small but still too large to play comfortably in her bedroom. Charles unstuck the skylight in the attic, and on the days on which it did not rain, Sophie climbed onto the roof and played her cello, up amongst the leaf mold and the pigeons.Sophie's comfort with rooftops will come in handy later. For when she is twelve, the National Childcare Agency tell Charles that she must go to a Home to be Properly Looked After. Finding a label concealed inside the cello case that shows it was made in Paris, they realize that Sophie's mother might have been French, so they escape across the Channel to look for traces of her. All they can afford is a cheap hotel, where Sophie has an attic room with a skylight, and once again she climbs up to practice on the roof.
When the music went right, it drained all the itch and fret from the world and left it glowing. When she did stretch and blink and lay her bow down hours later, Sophie would feel tougher, and braver. It was, she thought, like having eaten a meal of cream and moonlight. When practice went badly, it was just a chore, like brushing her teeth. Sophie had worked out that the good and bad days divided half and half. It was worth it.
“Sophie and Charles did not live neatly, but neatness, Sophie thought, was not necessary for happiness.”
Le mamme sono una cosa di cui hai bisogno, come l'aria, pensò. E come l'acqua. Le mamme sono un posto dove far riposare il cuore, un rifugio dove fermarsi a prendere fiato