It feels a bit silly saying it now, but for the longest time I didn’t know that there were people who could speak with the dead, or that you could sum up a person’s life by the number of pork pies he had stored away in an ice box. I didn’t know that getting kicked by a Gypsy girl hurts a lot more if she’s got a wooden leg. Or that on a narrow strip of the Cornish coast, you might discover a pocket of Arabian Desert. These were all things I had yet to learn.
Synopsis from Tundra Books
In the grimy London of 1935, eleven-year-old Dominic Walker has lost his voice. His mother is sick and his father’s unemployed. Rescue comes in the form of his Uncle Roo, who arrives to take him and his young sister, Marlo, to Cornwall. There, in a boarding house populated by eccentric residents, Marlo, who keeps a death grip on her copy of The New Art of Cooking, and Dominic, armed with Incredible Adventures for Boys: Colonel Lawrence and the Revolt in the Desert, find a way of life unlike any they have known. Dominic’s passion for Lawrence of Arabia is tested when he finds himself embroiled in a village uprising against a band of travelers who face expulsion. In defending the vulnerable, Dominic learns what it truly means to have a voice.
I must admit I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book; I’m not a big fan of historical fiction. But right from the beginning I was drawn in by Dominic’s character. Trilby Kent did a great job bring Dominic and all the stories characters to life. And what characters; they were fun and eccentric but completely believable.
I love how Dominic originally starts reading Incredible Adventures for Boys: Colonel Lawrence and the Revolt in the Desert as a way to avoid having conversations with people, but quickly he finds a connection to Lawrence. When Dominic is confronted with awkward or new situations, such as feeling homesick or meeting real life Gypsies, he thinks back to the book and how Colonel Lawrence would handle things.
I enjoyed the unlikely friendship that developed between Dominic and a Sancha, a Gypsy girl. It illustrates that even when children are from different backgrounds and dealing with unique struggles, there are some things that all kids desire: friendship, being accepted, love of family. Reading Medina Hill helped to remind me that even children can have amazing courage and teach us adults a thing or two.
And the Thoughts of a Pre-Teen
My niece is an avid read so I asked her to take a read of Medina Hill and see if she enjoyed the story as much as I did:
The story was very believable and I really felt like I was there. The characters were vivid, but [Trilby Kent] left a lot of room for the imagination. My favourite character was Sancha. She was a strong and determined character who stood up for her people.
My favourite part was when Sancha bids on her people’s land, which is being auctioned off. When [the town] found out she was a Gypsy, they would not accept the ticket. Dominic stood up for her, claiming the bid was his. He got his uncle to authorize the bid, and showed the people how unfairly the Gypsies were being treated.
I really enjoyed the story. It was an exciting book that also sends the message that we are all the same. [Trilby Kent] did a very good job of portraying the Gypsies. I had a very hard time putting it down!
An Interview with Dominic
While reading Trilby Kent‘s Medina Hill I forgot that I was reading about fictitious characters. Dominic, Marlo, Sancha and the other colourful characters felt so real; I wasn’t reading just a story but a tale of a young boys life. So I thought one way I could extend the story would be to ask Dominic a few questions (through Trilby Kent):
Me: Do you plan on visiting Medina Hill next summer?
Dominic: I really hope so! But only if all the usual crowd is still around – it just wouldn’t be the same without the friends we made there.
Me: When visiting Uncle Roo and Auntie Sylv, you didn’t seem to think about or write to your parents? Was this on purpose? Did you ever feel guilty?
Dominic: My sister and I were both pretty homesick to begin with: Marlo missed Mum especially, and I couldn’t help feeling that I’d been sent away as a kind of punishment for not talking. But on the very first day, something strange happened – and from that moment on, we were just too busy to spend much time feeling sorry for ourselves. It was also hard to feel lonely in a house full of people (“artistic types”, I suppose you’d call them!)
Towards the end of the summer I realized that I hadn’t written to Mum, who was still in hospital. That did make me feel a little guilty. Then again, she might not have been too pleased to hear about some of the things we got up to – so perhaps it was for the best!
Me: Do you think you’ll ever visit Arabia or learn to ride a camel?
Dominic: If I could do just one thing, it would be to ride a camel into Petra and see the Lost City with my very own eyes. I’d like to go to Arabia in the same way that T.E. Lawrence did, as an archaeologist; I’d want to speak Arabic and learn the ways of the desert from the Bedouin. That would be really grand.
Me: How many times have you read Incredible Adventures for Boys: Colonel Lawrence and the Revolt in the Desert?
Dominic: I’ve almost lost track. Seven times, I think – and counting! I read it three times that summer at Medina Hill.
Me: As we’re celebrating the launch of your story, what do you think Marlo would make for the party?
Dominic: We’d definitely have to have some of the Reverend’s “special” pies and pasties: stargazy pie, steak and kidney pie, leek pie. Afterwards, there’d be saffron buns and scones with strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream. And lots of ginger beer to wash it down!
Today marks the first day of a week long event celebrating the launch of Trilby Kent’s debut novel Medina Hill. Visit Tundra Book‘s blog for a list of all the bloggers celebrating this week. If you want to add Medina Hill to your personal library, visit Amazon.ca.
About Trilby Kent
Trilby Kent was born in Toronto, Ontario, and grew up in cities on both sides of the Atlantic. After completing degrees at Oxford University and The London School of Economics, she worked in the rare books department at a prominent auction house before turning to writing feature articles for publication in Europe and North America. She now lives in London, England. Medina Hill is Trilby Kent’s first novel.
On Sale: October 13, 2009
American Price: $19.95
Canadian Price: $21.99
Publisher: Tundra Books
ISBN: 978-0-88776-888-0 (0-88776-888-1)