Angela has been moved around from one Children’s Home to another since her parents died. It is about to happen again when, out of the blue, her aunt and uncle decide to invite her on holiday with their family with a view to keeping her with them. The venue for the trip is a rundown manor house in France with the mysterious owner called Armuth. The house itself has many secrets and things take a surprising turn when Angela meets a sick boy called Julien who is in a room at the top of the house; but then she discovers that he is living in 1898, so she has travelled back in time. How their stories are linked and they resolve the various problems that the both face makes for a fascinating and heart wrenching story at times.
This is a beautifully told story about the real meaning of family and friendship. The heroine is obviously still suffering stress after being the only survivor in a house fire. Given that she lost her parents and brother it is no wonder that she has the behavioural problems that cause so much trouble for her. The aunt and uncle, with their two daughters, are less than sympathetic characters and Aunt Cece turns out to be a rather nasty piece of work. There are actually two separate stories taking place, but separated by over 100 years; it is only at the end that we get to see the relationship. The author has woven these strands together but the joining together is so gradual that we don’t fully appreciate the importance of some of the clues until quite late in the story. Perhaps the weakest element for me is the lack of support given to Angela after her parents’ death. In this day and age it would be natural to have a bereavement counsellor and her behaviour would be seen as part of the whole process of loss that she is going through. Despite that reservation I found it a very moving story and would thoroughly recommend it to both children and school staff.