The Mirror Image Ghost, by Catherine Storr, for Timeslip Tuesday

Do not believe the title; The Mirror Image Ghost, by Catherine Storr (1994)  actually has no ghosts in it.  It does, though, start with the main character, a girl named Lisa, pestering her grandparents about a ghost boy her grandfather saw when he was  kid himself.  They are reluctant to tell her much, but she does learn from her grandfather that the ghost boy told him of terrible things....but that's all he's willing to say.  So Lisa goes back to her own home, still curious...

Her own home is not a happy place for her.  Her widowed mother has remarried, and Lisa is very unhappy sharing her home, and her mother, with her new French step-father and his two children, an boy and girl.  She makes no effort to be welcoming at all, and just holds her bitterness and resentment as tightly around herself as she can.

Her mother gives her a bit more context about the ghost boy and the grandfather's childhood--he was from Jewish family, in Austria, who was visiting England when Hitler invaded, and stayed there while his parents and sister were killed.  Lisa hadn't really thought about this part of WW II before, and it takes a while for her to grasp what actually happened (longer than I though believable.  But the Holocaust was still too real to her grandparents for them to ever have talked about with Lisa or her mother, and maybe it wasn't being taught in school because of being still too recent?  She does finally pick up Anne Frank to read...which is good for her and broadens her understanding....).

But in any event.

There was just one material thing her grandfather brought back from Vienna, when he went there after the war to try to find his family--his own mother's large mirror, all that was left of his family's possessions.  And Lisa, looking into the mirror, slips through time, and meets her grandfather's little sister.  She tries to tell her about the horrors to come, but the little girl thinks she's crazy...

Interspersed with other trips back through the mirror is the constant tension between Lisa and her step-siblings.  Gradually it resolves, but Lisa is not closer to getting her great-aunt to believe her.  When she meets her own Grandfather, she realizes that she is the "ghost boy" he met (she was wearing jeans, and had short hair), and he of course heeds her warning.....She wants to save the little sister too, but as her understanding of the danger to come deepens, she begins to fear for her own life if she is caught in Vienna when she realizes that she too, being one quarter Jewish, would be in danger if caught there by the Nazis.

 Lisa's experiences time-travelling, and thinking about the past, indirectly help crack her out of her pit of denial, but I think the book would have been stronger if the past and present pushed harder at each other...it's almost two stories side by side, instead of the pulling in tandem.  Still, it's moving and memorable, and really sensitive and thoughtful in its portrayal of the Holocaust.  Though the worst horror takes place off the page, Lisa's final mirror visit to the past is chilling.

However,  for me the most memorable thing about it was wanting to shake Lisa!  She is the epitome of self-absorbed adolescent (though one can't help be sympathetic when, for instance, she must share her room with a step-sister whose very existence is loathsome to her.  And Storr manages to make her just sympathetic enough to not spoil the whole book....)

If you are looking for time travel in which the past is explored, this isn't what you are looking for--Lisa's visits are basically quick in and outs, in which she stays where she lands.  If you are looking for blended family books and/or books with sensitive and thoughtful treatment of the Holocust and its lasting impact on those who survived, it's a good one!

(books sure were shorter even as recently as the 1990s--this one only has 143 pages in paperback!)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for telling me about this one. It sounds like a good addition to the list of Holocaust books for the young.


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