Chime by Franny Billingsley
Published March 2011 by Dial Books (Penguin)
Hardcover 361 pages
reviewed from library copy
Summary from GoodReads
Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.
I don't think the description above does this story justice especially since it gives no mention of Rose (Briony's twin) who is an integral character in the book (one of the most important in my opinion) Rose, a few minutes older than Briony was injured as a child and suffers emotional and mental challenges. Briony has always been tied to her and feels responsible for her care and well being. She has an inner struggle in looking after Rose and I think though she tries not to, resents her. Rose and Briony's father is the Minister in their village and is absent from their daily activities. They're basically on the their own except when they are called upon to be "good" examples of a Ministers daughters.
This is one powerful read. The book told through Briony opens with her statements of self hatred and wishing to be hung. She believes she is evil and deserves to be punished. We, the readers aren't sure as to where the guilt and hatred she clings to so tightly comes from, but of course as the story moves along we discover why. I adored Briony. I felt so badly for her, but I think her feelings about herself will resonate with many. A cycle of negative thinking, sometimes even "planted" by an outsider can do damage if we let it, and it's so easy for it to happen. I loved that underlying thread through out the book. It's not necessarily an uplifting read, and it might not appeal to everyone but I think readers will enjoy the familiar fairytale feel with swamp monsters, faeries and witches and root for Briony to ask for the help she needs. The writing was beautiful, and left me thinking about it. Recommended.