I knew Chris Riddell as an illustrator first, this is the first novel of his I have read and I adored it. Ada Goth is the only child of Lord Goth. She lives a rather lonely existence in her own home, wearing loud boots to stomp around the enormous Ghastly-Gorm Hall in order to be heard rather than seen, and more importantly avoided. Ada’s face breaks her father’s heart, Lord Goth is in a terrible state of grief after losing Lady Goth, Ada’s mother. Then one night, a ghost of a mouse introduces himself: Call me Ishmael.
Children and adults will thoroughly enjoy this read. It’s almost a spoof of all gothic tales before it. There’s the Attic Club formed of children of the servants, there’s the vast lawns perfect for Hobby Horse racing and of course, the fabulous and exclusive Annual Metaphorical Bicycle Race and Indoor Hunt. A young audience will love the silliness and the extravagance and the adults will admire characters with a knowing smile such as governesses Jane Ear and Nana Darling who barked a lot.
Naturally, the illustrations were flawless. It is a beautiful book that I find myself picking up and looking at over and over again. Ada Goth reminds me a lot of Alice, inquisitive and determined. And like Carroll’s classic, things aren’t what they seem and they get curiouser and curiouser. A book that can be enjoyed by all.
And the second is just the same. A fete is to be held at Ghastly-Gorm Hall, Ada experiences a quintessential English fete with a twist only Riddell can give. There’s traditional dancing with blue painted faces and a Great Ghastly-Gorm Bake Off with many recognisable faces. Again, there are many layers to Riddell’s writing and illustrations: full of silliness and magic but also love and murder plots!