Bren is 12 years old and his world has fallen apart. His sister Evie is dead, Shaun, the school bully, makes his days at school utterly miserable and his parents are so closed in with grief that they rarely speak or spend time with him. However, he has one means of escape-the beautiful world of Furthermoor, which he has created from his imagination using the cogs and dials of Evie’s watch and where she is still alive.
This is his bolt hole, being alone with his sister where everything is exquisite, no-one can hurt him and he can spend every second of his spare time there. This piece of magic realism is beautifully wrought by Simpson, but he has woven danger signals through it: Bren is turning his back on the real world, avoiding his friends and family and accepting the vicious and humiliating bullying which Shaun metes out to him. Worst of all, Furthermoor is being systematically and repeatedly damaged by Featherly, a fearsome hooded crow who berates Bren for his cowardice. Then along comes Cary, the new boy in school, who fearlessly stands up to Shaun and humiliates him in public, with the predictable result that his bullying of Bren escalates, becoming life-threatening so that he can no longer avoid dealing with it.
The narrative is absorbing, tense and poignant, with real life challenges and concerns cleverly echoed in the magical world of Furthermore. When Bren finds the courage to confront Featherly and pulls down his hood there is a palpable shock for the reader.
Furtherwood is a powerful book which addresses issues common to us all in a memorable way. The fiercely poignant ending rings true, even though at times it is not quite as meticulously crafted as the rest of the narrative. This book would be a valuable addition to a school library, for both private reading and class discussion.