The House Of Hummingbird Island
By Sam Angus
Published by Macmillan
ISBN 978 1 4472 7105 5
Some book titles just pique your interest immediately, and here we are with a title that promises much. Is Hummingbird Island as colourful and romantic as it ought to be or is Sam Angus playing a little trick?
Idie Grace is twelve years old and lives with her grandfather in a mansion in depths of the English countryside. The year is 1912. Idie leads a comfortable life of privilege, but there is a bit of a mystery about her parentage. The story goes that she was just given as a baby into ‘Grandcat’s’ household like a parcel.
She has been brought up with two cousins, and it seems as if her life is nicely mapped out. Until, one day, ‘Grandcat’ receives a letter saying that Idie has inherited a property on an Island in the Caribbean and that she has to travel there at once.
Idie sets off with her governess to Hummingbird Island to claim the inheritance no-one will explain to her. It’s going to be interesting getting away from England and living in a place where hummingbirds hover in the air and monkeys clamber from tree to tree, but Idie would still like to know what this is all about.
She’s told her mother has left her the house and estate on Hummingbird Island, but there the information stops.
The House Of Hummingbird Island is very much a novel about setting as well as story. When she arrives on the island, Idie feels she has walked into paradise. She meets a colourful cast of servants who run the estate, and she is introduced to a strange-looking woman who she is told is her aunt.
But nobody seems to want to take responsibility for the twelve-year-old newcomer, and soon Idie realises she can do as she pleases, so she fills the house with animals, walks around with a cockatoo on her shoulder and keeps turtles in the bathtub.
But the island house holds as many secrets as it does animals, and Idie has many mysteries to unravel about her inheritance and identity.
Angus’s novel takes its time and allows the reader to soak up the atmosphere of Hummingbird Island. The book is packed with wonderfully imagined characters and as time passes Idie becomes involved in the fate of the British West Indies Regiment who went off to fight in the first world war in 1915 alongside British troops in far off France. Angus skilfully ties together Idie’s own story with the stories of a group of men sent to fight a war in a far off country.
The House Of Hummingbird Island is a rich, imaginative book with lots to enjoy. If you want a book to take to a very different world, Sam Angus’s novel is the book for you.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com