The Chestnut Roaster…by Eve McDonnell

Last year, I picked up a copy of Elsetime by Eve McDonnell. I was intrigued; historical fiction with mudlarking and time-travel…what’s not to like? But I didn’t expect to be consumed, inspired. In short, I was completely blown away. So with the announcement of a new middle-grade/young teen novel by this exceptional author, I set out searching high and low for a copy ASAP. Thanks to the efforts of a good friend, colleague and marvelous bookwitch, it arrived in my hands and I have to say, once again, I am blown away. Let’s take a look at….


author: Eve McDonnell

illustrations: Ewa Beniak-Haremska

Everything With Words (October 2022)

ISBN: 9781911427292

“Starting on All Fools’ Day, twelve years ago, I remember everything. That was a wet Saturday, and that was the day I was born.”

Paris, 1888. 12-year-old Piaf has the ability to (and burden of) remembering everything that has happened since the day she was born. She keeps her memories in little boxes in her mind. For the last year, since her twin brother Luc had a terrible fall, she has worked the chestnut roaster on her own. When she meets a sinister man, it leads Piaf to discover everyone in Paris has forgotten the entire last year, 1887, including the disappearance of twenty gifted children. Piaf manages to remove Luc from the hospital and together they embark on a dangerous journey into the depths of Paris’s underground twin, the Catacombs, to capture the memory thief and find the lost children—but with Luc remembering nothing and everyone turning against them, who dare they trust?

A book that deals with family, friendship and the function of memory…and one of the most intriguing and exciting adventures I have read in a long, long time. The atmosphere of La Belle Époque is captured perfectly, with all the clattering and noise, the sights and the smells of the time and the possibility that, perhaps, everyone was forgetting something as they rushed along in this prosperous bustle. The relationship between brother and sister adds an interesting look at dependency and independence; one child who remembers everything and the other who has forgotten everything. Piafs’ unique gift and utter determination pulls the two together to create an unbreakable bond and allows them both to blossom in the most unlikely circumstances. In the telling of the tale, the interplay of light and dark (quite literally) creates mood, atmosphere and tangibility. The reader has something firm to grasp as they travel the above and below Paris. The city itself takes on the role of a character lurking in the background. It is fascinating that below Paris is a whole other twin relationship come to the for; it is identical, yet radically different; dark, dank, full of bones and completely forgotten by those above on the city streets. But alive with memory and secrets.

internal illustrations by Ewa Beniak-Haremska

This is a story of an extraordinary adventure…and an extraordinary girl. Told in a genuine voice and steady, true pace, it is marvelous. Beautifully written and including the wonderful black and white illustrations that add much life and mood to the tale; gripping, dramatic with little bursts of humour, heartfelt and completely magical.


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