Rowan and his always-silent sister Nina have lost their mother. During the summer they stay with their two aunts in a very particular town called Owatannauk in Maine. During one of their sessions exploring the town with recently befriended Xavier and Xanthe they find an abandoned hotel at the edge of town. When Nina disappears, Rowan, Xavier, and Xanthe have to come up with a way to bring her back. A way that involves the hotel, and Rowan learning an important lesson.
I really really enjoyed The Golden Hour. It was by no means perfect, but it did remind me of what I find so charming in Eva Ibbotson books. Reasons why I liked it, you asked?
- There is time travel, and it has rules, and it is dangerous. Sometimes time travel can lead to confusion, or a distortion of logic that doesn’t make much sense (Shadow of Night?) In The Golden Hour there is a definite set of rules, and the children have to stick to it to make it back to their own time, and they have to take care not to disturb the equilibrium to endanger themselves and others. It just makes sense, which is great.
- There is a quirky cuteness about the world Rowan finds himself in: the town, his aunts (oh – his aunts are absolutely wonderful).. Even some of the scenes in France 1789 have that feel.
- The whole idea of a “golden” and a “silver” hour (dawn and dusk) that are perfect moments and the only times at which you can safely time travel has a beauty to it that I appreciated.
- When Rowan travels to France at the time of the start of the French revolution, the book doesn’t idealise history. This isn’t time travel just for the sake of nostalgia (although that, of course, also plays a role). Instead, it shows us the dangers of the time. It also includes a commentary on class and race differences which I felt was very well done.
- There is a storyline of Rowan and Nina both needing to come to terms with the loss of their mother and to learn to love themselves for who they are. Admittedly, this is the kind of thing that you might expect to find in a book like this, but instead of becoming overtly obvious and annoying, it was charming.
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