Jamila Gavin, Author . FSG $19 (336p) ISBN 978-0-374-31544-3

In the great tradition of Dickens, British author Gavin mines English history, contrasting 18th-century city life with that of country estates, the wealthy classes with the poverty-stricken. Parallel plots develop as the author introduces charismatic Otis Gardiner, nicknamed the "Coram man" for his role in taking unwanted children off of the hands of rich and poor alike, and his simpleton son, 14-year-old Meshak. But Otis's nickname, taken from a nobler man than he (an actual historic figure, Captain Thomas Coram, who opened a hospital for abandoned children in 1741), is unearned; readers discover as the novel progresses just how he disposes of his charges. Meanwhile, another story emerges surrounding 13-year-old Alexander, on scholarship as a chorister at the Gloucester Cathedral, and heir to the Ashbrook estate. Making brilliant use of an omniscient narrator, the author moves easily in and out of various characters' points of view, most notably that of the emotionally unstable Meshak, whose moral compass points somewhere shy of North, but whose heart is in the right place. Alexander's and Meshak's romantic leanings toward the same young woman thicken the plot. Gavin paints low-life characters every bit as seductively as the high-society variety, and never shows her hand as the disparate threads of her narrative join together into a seamless whole. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/17/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Genre: Children's
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7540-6312-4
Paperback - 327 pages - 978-0-374-41374-3
Prebound-Glued - 327 pages - 978-1-4177-3774-1
Paperback - 372 pages - 978-1-4052-1282-3
Prebound-Glued - 327 pages - 978-0-606-33751-9
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