by Sylvia Cassedy
Lonely, sullen Maggie goes to live with her stern, elderly aunts in a big old spooky house that used to be an orphanage. Her aunts try to correct her recalcitrant behavior and introduce her to "suitable" friends, but Maggie pushes everyone away. She only has imaginary friends- a handful of unintelligent girls she secretly bosses around. Stirred by a dull curiosity, she wanders the empty rooms when she can escape her aunts' attention, poking into things and lecturing her string of dull, invisible followers. Then she begins to hear voices, and eventually stumbles upon a hidden room in the attic- where a pair of china dolls appears to have been waiting for her. In her initial shock she avoids the room, but then returns and soon finds herself going there day after day, keeping company with the prim doll couple and their little china dog, opening her heart to care for something, and at the same time solving a little mystery about the orphanage's past. I first read Behind the Attic Wall years and years ago, and went back to it many times. Even though Maggie isn't a very pleasant character at first, there's something about her that warms to the reader- her stubborn tenacity and slowly unfolding tenderness (rather like Mary in The Secret Garden, it now occurs to me). It's a solemn kind of story, and rather sad; one that's hard to forget.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 315 pages, 1983