I love Katie Grant’s writing. Her characters are very real, flawed, humorous – likeable. In this novel, she gives herself the joy of creating a fictional Chaucer in all his warmth and cleverness. She also cameos several of the characters on the Canterbury pilgrimage. Her heroin, Belle, is a lovely concoction of innocence and vulnerability, sparked with guilt but also with an irrepressible zest for excitement.
Belle’s Song is part intrigue, part romance. Its best bits for me are some beautifully drawn vignettes: Chaucer with his writing box of quills, ink and parchment; or flighty Belle, escaping into her own world of Arthurian dreams and romance. It really packs a lot in: scenes turn quickly, and while not all of them are entirely believable, you’re quickly beyond them and enjoying the next.
But – for me a big problem – is that this is also a story about self-harm, and, at the denouement, sexual misdemeanors. These are sensitively dealt with, and the OCD element gives Belle another level of interest. They’re just not what I want my 9-year-old girl to be reading about yet: despite the fact that she’s been very drawn to the lovely cover of the book.