This delightful and thought-provoking book explores the line between truth and fantasy as Fitzgerald creates two orphaned sisters, Gracie and Bee, living with their Uncle Freddy and their Granddad Patrick. The girls’ parents died within two days of each other, but their deaths are never mentioned or discussed by Uncle Freddy, who wishes to spare them further upset.
The girls are foils for each other: Gracie is firmly rooted in the real world and anxious not to draw attention to herself, whereas Bee, endearing and exasperating by turn, is prone to flights of fancy, arachaic speech and an insistence that the family dog can talk. When Gracie is invited to join the coveted top table of popular students she is determined that Bee’s often bizarre behaviour is not going to prejudice her new position-especially when the handsome-and vacuous-Chris Crosby asks her to be his girlfriend. Gracie’s new priorities cause her to behave as self-centredly as her new friends and she wounds Bee by lying to her about the cancellation of Chris’s younger sister’s birthday party, worried that Bee’s strange behaviour might cause Chris to rethink his relationship with her.
The death of their beloved grandfather adds to the girls’ woes and Bee fixates on a mythical place, the Hotel Magnificent-where the answers to all problems are to be found. The girls find themselves guided there when a night of fierce storms has destroyed their overnight camping trip and this extended passage of magic realism is both utterly credible and extremely moving. Here, the dead are briefly united with the living and the respite from their sorrows which the girls so badly need is provided.
This is a remarkable book-resonant with wisdom, beautifully written and impossible to put down.