My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I seem to come back to A Little Love Song whenever I need comforting and so, it was with no surprise to myself when I found my way back to it recently. It’s a wartime bildungsroman, the story of the summer where everything changes for the central character Rose. Rose and her beautiful sister, Diana, are sent to the seaside town of Salmouth in the care of a guardian whilst their mother goes off to entertain the troups. It’s when the guardian doesn’t arrive, the two sisters have to make a vital decision. Do they stay in the supposedly haunted cottage, the home of ‘Mad Hilda’, or do they go back to their real lives?
Michelle Magorian is perhaps better known for Good Night, Mr. Tom and is one of those authors who produces masterpieces every couple of years. A Little Love Song is one of those masterpieces. It’s written very quietly; the prose is effortless and there’s no place for high-dancing metaphors here. It is a story very much concerned with the quiet nature and sheer wonder of life and how people cross and move throughout their stories.
Rose’s summer is a delight, a heartbreak, a wistful page-turn. As she discovers more about the previous inhabitant of the cottage – the so called ‘Mad Hilda’ – she seems to discover more and more about herself in the process. The development and resolution of Mad Hilda’s story is heartbreaking and comes to bear more weight on Rose’s life than either she or we ever thought possible.
A Little Love Song is the work of an author who is, I think, often forgotten and shouldn’t be. This novel holds the hallmarks of some of her greatest work, the sensitive portrayal of a young individual bordering on adulthood and trying to find their way in the world.
It is a beautiful, beautiful book.