Monday, November 18, 2013


by Katherine Rundell
Simon & Schuster, 2013. 277 pgs. Fiction

     When the ship on which she and her mother were passengers sank, the baby girl who became known as Sophie was discovered floating in a cello case and was rescued by Charles Maxim, a down-at-the-heels professor who decided since he found her, he must raise her. Charles doesn't know much about children, but he knows how to love Sophie, and they live happily together for a number of years until the British version of social services decides a bachelor doesn't know anything about raising children and decides to remove her to an orphanage.  Sophie is so angry she whangs away at her cello case and as bits fall off, she finds a plaque that says the case was made in France.  Suddenly, for the first time in her life, she has a lead for finding her lost mother, who was on the ship with her and presumably drowned. Charles and Sophie run headlong into a stonewalling bureaucracy in France, from whom they have to hide, so Sophie takes to the rooftops where she meets a group of runaways who will help her in her heart's quest. Katherine Rundell's book is a pure delight, the eccentric Charles and his ward with the "hair the color of lightning," are characters you wish were your friends. "Why is she so pale?" asks the harpy from the State. "She isn't pale," he replies. " She is cut from the stuff of moonlight," as is this charming, old-fashioned, Dickensian with a lighter heart, story. (A bit of minor league swearing, totally justified.)

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