The Haunting of Charity Delafield

Written by Ian Beck
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

1903. Twelve-year-old Charity Delafield lives a very restricted life in Stone Gate Hall, a creepy mansion with lots of rooms she’s not allowed to enter. She’s taught at home by her governess, Rose; she’s not allowed to go outside unaccompanied; and her only real companion is her cat, Mr Tomkins. Her morose father is determined to protect her – but from what?

Charity, however, has a strange persistent dream where she is exploring the forbidden part of the house with Mr Tomkins. She begins to sense that the solution to the mystery lies there – and it’s something to do with her mother, who died when she was born.  Then, one day, she meets an old woman who tells her she knew her mother. It’s the first time Charity has been told anything about her. Later, she meets Silas, a chimney sweep, and, suddenly, with Silas’s help, unravelling the secret which has been kept from her begins to seem possible. It just requires courage…

This is a story in the Frances Hodgson Burnett tradition: a lonely child, a missing parent, and a mysterious quest has echoes of A Little Princess; and the touch of magic, the house with forbidden rooms and Charity’s friendship with the chimney sweep’s boy, reflects Mary Lennox’s friendship with country lad Dickon, and the hidden heir of Misslethwaite Manor in The Secret Garden. I loved both books as a child, and I’m sure I’d have enjoyed The Haunting of Charity Delafield, too. Imaginative girls of 9 plus should enjoy this book.