It’s summer. Rebecca is an unwilling visitor to Winterfold – taken from the buzz of London and her friends and what she thinks is the start of a promising romance. Ferelith already lives in Winterfold – it’s a place that doesn’t like to let you go, and she knows it inside out – the beach, the crumbling cliff paths, the village streets, the woods, the deserted churches and ruined graveyards, year by year being swallowed by the sea. Against her better judgement, Rebecca and Ferelith become friends, and during that long, hot, claustrophobic summer they discover more about each other and about Winterfold than either of them really want to, uncovering frightening secrets that would be best left long forgotten.
Interwoven with Rebecca and Ferelith’s stories is that of the seventeenth century Rector and Dr Barrieux, master of Winterfold Hall, whose bizarre and bloody experiments into the after-life might make angels weep, and the devil crow.
White Crow is written from several different perspectives – Rebecca, the main character; Ferelith,the weird girl she meets in Winterfold; and an 18th century priest who has been doing terrible things. It’s a slim novel clocking in at 262 pages, some of which are short (a few sentences) journal entries of the priest. That makes it quite a quick read.
Rebecca is the angstiest heroine since Angela from My So-Called Life. Not hard to understand since she’s been exiled to Winterfold with her father because of something he did, which is a big secret for the first 1/3 of the book before it’s finally revealed. All that’s said up to that point is that he’s done something which requires them to keep running away. Even when the cat is let out of the bag, it’s rather a letdown. The reason for them being in Winterfold is completely glossed over and the reader is given almost no detail about what actually happened.
Overall, I kind of felt that the whole book had that problem. While the story itself could have been really interesting, it ultimately fails to live up to what it could have been due to everything being very “on the surface” with almost no deep detail into any of the multiple story threads – the priest’s fall from Grace, Rebecca’s dad’s past, Ferelith’s past (particularly her mother), etc. Everything is just glossed over and it made it really difficult to care about any of the characters or any of the situations that they found themselves in. I wish there had just been more tension.
One thing that I did like a lot was the town of Winterfold itself. It’s a good creepy ancient English coastal village, and the idea of a town that is being slowly reclaimed by the sea was really creepy. I liked the setting of Winterfold a lot. I also thought that the ending was an interesting direction for the story to go in, but again, by the time it got there I had kind of lost interest in all of the characters and it didn’t have as much of an impact as it could have.
Overall the book didn’t really work for me, although there were things about it that I did like. And it made the shortlist for the Carnegie Medal, so obviously it’ll have a lot to offer other readers.