Saturday, December 12

Saffy's Angel - Hilary McKay

Saffy Casson was eight when she discovered that her name was not on the colour chart that hung in her family kitchen. Oldest sister Caddy was there - as cadmiums lemon, deep yellow, scarlet and gold, younger brother Indigo was there amongst the blue and purple section, and baby Permanent Rose (who had come very close to being not at all permanent) was there, but no Saffron, however hard Saffy looked among the yellows. When, frustrated, she asked why, the annoying Health Visitor who was checking on Rose, and who continually compared her genius twin daughters unfavourably to the Casson children, asked their mother "Doesn't she know?" Which is how Saffy found out that her mother was really her aunt, her siblings her cousins, and her own mother was dead.
The first in a quintet, Saffy's Angel is a delightful, touching and comic story about a truly unique family. Though Saffy's its' focus, we learn as much about the other members - beautiful but unfocused Caddy, half in love with her driving instructor, only male Indigo, ferociously defensive of his pack, determined Rose, the most artistic of the lot, their vague and artistic mother, challenged by shopping and not very interested in anything but her children and her art, and their Serious Artist father, who lives in London and visits when he has to. But most of all we learn about Saffy, who since her discovery has felt wholly an outsider, and who needs to find proof that she is loved and belongs.
McKay writes with immediacy. Her characters are beautifully crafted, engaging and amusing and emotionally resonant. This series is probably less accessible to young male readers but is a great choice for young female readers; I've recommended it to several godparents, grandparents and friends. - Alex

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