Sunday, 2 December 2018

H.S. Norup - The Missing Barbegazi - Book Review By Sinéad O'Hart, Author of The Eye of the North

Barbegazi are fabled creatures who live in the alps, rather like gnomes. Tessa knows that they exist because her beloved grandfather told her about them. So she sets out to prove to her family and friends that her grandfather wasn’t just a confused old man. Soon she finds not only a family of Barbegazi but also a dastardly plot to kidnap one and keep it captive. But Tessa realises that uncovering the truth carries great responsibilities – and sometimes things have to remain a secret.
The Missing Barbegazi is a delightful debut novel about the importance of family and the power of hope.
Here we have a lovely Guest Book Review by Sinéad O'Hart, author of The Eye of the North (2018) and The Star-Spun Web (2019)
'Beautiful and unusual... this unexpected and striking story is one to be savoured' 

I am fascinated by words, and so the title of H.S. Norup’s debut novel for children grabbed my attention straight away. Who, or what, is a ‘barbegazi’?When the word is explained in the novel, I loved its etymology and meaning, and – wonderfully – I was charmed that knowing where it came from changed how I was pronouncing it in my head. 

That feeling of charmed wonderment sums up my feelings about this book: it’s beautiful and unusual, like a sculpture made from snow. Telling the story of Tessa, a young girl dealing with the death of her beloved Opa (grandfather) and the sickness, possibly heartbreak, of her equally beloved Oma (grandmother), the book takes us through real-life concerns – doing well in a skiing competition, making friends, navigating the world – and also into the heart of an otherworldly, ethereal mystery. 

This mystery is one which Tessa feels will help her Oma to get well and honour her lost Opa’s memory, and it centres on one unknown quantity: what are the barbegazi? Do they exist? Was Tessa’s Opa making up stories about having seen elves in the mountains? And – chillingly – who else might be on their trail? 

As well as Tessa’s story we have that of Gawion, a young (by barbegazian standards!) creature determined to get to the bottom of who has kidnapped his sister Maeg, and why. I loved his eccentric, long-lived family and their endearing ways, and also the perspective they gave on history and the treatment of the Other in times gone by. Tessa and Gawion make a unique and perceptive team… but can they save Maeg before it’s too late? 

Written in clear and lovely prose, this unexpected and striking story is one to be savoured by readers from 8 and up.

Published by Pushkin Press, 
Paperback 256 pages
Published 04/10/2018

ISBN: 9781782691815

H.S. Norup was born in Denmark and lived in the US, the UK, Austria and Switzerland before moving to Singapore. Now, she has returned to Switzerland with her husband and two teenage sons. This is Helle's debut novel and very much draws on her love of the Alps, her passion for skiing and her belief that magic is all around us - particularly in the love, trust and companionship found in families.

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