The Book That Made Me: David Almond 20/03/19
The Key to Flambards
Publisher: David Fickling Books
It’s been a year of dramatic changes for Grace. She must now start to move on, accepting her parents’ divorce and adjusting to her life with a prosthetic limb, following a car accident which resulted in a lower leg amputation.
This summer, she’s reluctantly left her home and best friend to spend the holidays at Flambards, a quiet countryside arts centre, where her mum is trying to breathe some life into a struggling business.
Flambards is a stately home with some serious history – and Grace’s family are direct descendants of the Russell family who used to own it. As she gradually gets to know the locals, she uncovers some mysterious secrets buried in the house’s past. It’s a summer that will slowly change Grace’s feelings about her past, her future and her very place in the world.
Grace is very likeable but convincingly flawed, grappling with conflicting emotions about friendship, identity, rural living and life in general. We see her assessing (and reassessing) her attitude towards disability – and Newbery ingeniously explores the theme from different angles, Grace’s situation mirrored by other characters past and present, including an ancestor with facial disfigurement.
This is a very readable standalone for those unfamiliar with the K M Peyton stories that inspired it. It also offers fans of the original Flambards series the chance to revisit its style and charm, but with a fresh story, contemporary themes and engaging new characters.