'I know there is a land that surrounds me, but always lies just beyond my grasp. I feel its constant presence through everything everyone else can do and I cannot.'
The Visitors is an intelligent, imaginative and beautifully written debut novel which I found absorbing and really enjoyed reading. The author has created a wonderful, convincing narrator in Liza, a young deaf-blind girl, and by telling the story in her voice almost throughout, we are drawn deeply, vividly into her unique world and able to share in all that she can, and cannot, be part of:
'...I cannot imagine comprehending an object through anything but the feel of it, the shape, the weight, the texture and the space it inhabits. Does all this also come through sight, or is it something so different it cannot be conceptualised, as different from touch as smell is? Another country, another language, another arena of sensation? I ache for it.'
I found this a captivating read that I was eager to continue with. It was a pleasure and a joy to read because of the way the reader could share so closely in Liza’s joy as she discovers more of the world around her through the use of finger spelling with Lottie, and then in other ways as things change further for her than she could have hoped.
Lottie is a hop picker working for Liza's father, and in her Liza finds a very dear and devoted friend, the way they are together is heartwarming, with Lottie patient and kind. Liza finds love and friendship amongst Lottie's family too, with her brother Caleb's letters from the Boer war in the second half of the book adding further shape and historical context to the narrative. Liza has a loving father, their closeness was wonderful and I was glad she had this relationship, as, at least at first, her mother was too weak to be there for her.
With the Visitors, the ghostly apparitions seen by Liza when she closes her eyes, and with whom she can communicate in her mind, the author adds another dimension to Liza's experiences and to the tale. I liked the significance of the role they played towards the end of the novel, though of course I won't write more about that here so that I don't spoil the story. The descriptions of the Kent hop fields, the oyster beds, and the Boer war are vivid and evocative. The book has a very attractive cover design, too.
What I think I liked most of all was that Rebecca Mascull makes us see anew through Liza’s eyes much of the wonder in the world around us every day, and made this reader think about appreciating it all, and not taking things for granted.
For me this was a very engaging, moving and atmospheric story of devoted, wonderful friendship, first love and attraction, of travel, adventure and war, and of ghostly visitors. I looked forward to getting back to it every time I had to put it down, and I read it in only a few sittings. An impressive debut.
Author links twitter @RebeccaMascull | tumblr
Published by Hodder & Stoughton