Two children are growing up in London after the Second World War. The boy has a bad stammer; the girl has an abusive stepfather. As they become friends, Reggie seeks to persuade Alice that he has a unique gift, ‘mind-touching’. He can make people believe that their dearest wish is true. What’s more, he argues that Alice shares this unusual capability.
A series of revelations takes place, shrewdly enough introduced to be unexpected. The book now becomes a quest, the children seeking ways to cope with what they discover. The most impressive feature of this book is the immediacy with which settings and emotional responses are described. The prose has a tangible poetic quality. The characterization is powerful, with Reggie and Alice dominant figures. One defect of the book is that Reggie allows Alice to befriend him too easily. We sense that his barriers should be harder to penetrate.
The narrative is effective. The plot advances at great speed. Shea makes little attempt to substitute 1940s terminology for modern diction, but does not thereby compromise the period authenticity.