An outbreak of malaria in her home town causes Cissy to be sent away to her former teacher, Loucien, until the danger has passed. To Cissy’s great delight, Loucien is living on an old steamboat which she shares with the rest of the Bright Lights Theatre Company. McCaughrean has long been a highly accomplished storyteller and here she is at her peak with an imaginative, engaging cast of characters through whom she explores landscape, history, morality and ambition.
The narrative bustles along with wit and wisdom, acquiring new occupants of the steamboat along the way, each with their stories to tell and their talents to add to the formidable array possessed by the members of the Bright Lights. The prose is vividly cinematic – and, indeed, the novel would make a fine film or TV series as its episodic nature allows a selection of rich cameos to emerge, taking their parts in a journey which is every bit as intense and dramatic as the theatrical performances which the company presents.
McCaughrean creates a real sense of a tight-knit community within which dreams are fulfilled, potential is realised and mistakes are forgiven. It’s not fame or money which is important on the steamboat, but righting injustices, helping the vulnerable, having a code to live your life by. All this is accomplished through non-stop action, razor-sharp humour and outrageously imaginative scenarios. This book is a joy from start to finish – next, please!