Oct 22, 2009

Behind the Attic Wall

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

10 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

Not only that, but sounds just a tad creepy and haunting.

Hazra said...

I was thinking of Secret Garden too as I read your review; it was one of my favorite books as a kid.

An Anonymous Child said...

I wonder why so many books have similar premises... The angry orphan goes to live with the stern adults in the creepy old house. Not to dismiss this as bad (haven't read it; can't say), but it seems like a theme that repeats itself frequently in many stories. This does sound like a slightly creepier variation on it (and perhaps more interesting as such) but I do have to wonder...

sassymonkey said...

I remember this book! I don't really remember what happens in it but I remember the cover of it creeped me out. lol

Jenny said...

My sister and I both read this book when we were small. I remembered it as being sad but charming, and she remembered it as being incredibly creepy. She said it gave her nightmares. I liked it a lot though, and despite her "bad" behavior, I thought Maggie was a great character.

Jeane said...

It does seem to be a common premise, now that I think about it! I just watched a film last night called "El Orfanato" (The Orphanage)that was about a couple with an adopted kid who bought an old house that used to be an orphanage, and it was haunted by the ghosts of children. Made me think of this book!

But really, I didn't find the book creepy. Just sad and- as Jenny said- maybe a little charming. I can see how some would find it unsettling, though!

bermudaonion said...

Sounds creepy - like a good read for this time of year.

Melanie said...

I remember this one! I read it a few times when I was younger and the cover is certainly memorable as well. I have a friend who moved into a huge old house when his two daughters were young, and they discovered it had been an orphanage of sorts; his daughters could hear the other children's voices but were never creeped out by it.

Chandra said...

'One that's hard to forget' - very good description! I read this years ago and I've never gotten out of my head. I came across a used copy recently and snatched it up - hoping to read it again sometime in the future.

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