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Invisible in a Bright Light

Invisible in a Bright Light

Published: 2 Apr 2020

Paperback / softback, 320 pages

Recommended for age 11+

By Sally Gardner

Published by Head of Zeus

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A middle grade novel about a crystal chandelier shaped like a galleon that splinters into a thousand pieces, a girl abandoned as a baby on the steps of an opera house and a dangerous game called the Reckoning.

Reviewed by Rachel Elvidge

Invisible in a Bright Light by Sally Gardner is a spell-binding novel that opens with a nightmare-like sequence, in a cave under the sea. This sets the scene perfectly for the confusion and mystery to follow.

Celeste lives in the dome of the atmospheric Opera House and earns her keep running errands and helping backstage. At least, she is sure she is Celeste, but everyone seems to think she is someone else and calls her Maria. They seem to think she can dance beautifully when she knows she can’t. Who are these people, who seem familiar and yet so changed? Who is the girl who appears to be haunting her? Like Alice in Wonderland, Celeste has tumbled into a parallel world and must wrestle with these puzzles and more.

She slowly realises that she and her twin sister, for whom everyone has mistaken her, are in the midst of a deadly game, called the Reckoning. Whether they win or lose will not only decide the fate of themselves and their family, but all the passengers of the great ship The Empress lost at sea with all hands.

But no one can win the Reckoning…. can they?

There is a strong dreamlike quality throughout the book, and the plot has many twists and turns; it rewards careful reading. Sometimes Celeste’s confusion is mirrored by the reader, and we must wait for explanation to come later, as Celeste does. The story is anchored by a vivid setting and strong well-drawn characters, such as the caring Anna, loyal and brave Viggo and the utterly despicable Madame Sabina. Celeste herself is an interesting, quirky heroine, who discovers depths in herself that she didn’t know existed.

This book is a thing of physical beauty, too, totally in keeping with its themes. The cover illustration is stunning.

Recommended for confident readers looking for something different, fans of Alice in Wonderland and anyone who enjoys being challenged to think.

Rachel has 20 years experience in primary school teaching, most recently running reading interventions in an Ofsted Outstanding school in Essex. A firm believer that there is always something new to learn, she recently completed an MA in Early Childhood Education. In the same spirit, she also attends latin and ballroom lessons, sadly with a less than impressive outcome! Rachel works for Just Imagine as an Education Consultant, currently overseeing The Reading Journey.