Book: The Shell House

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The Shell House

Author: Linda Newbery
Publisher: David Fickling Books

When Greg stumbles across the beautiful ruins of Graveney Hall, he becomes intrigued by the story behind its destruction. He and his friend Faith are drawn into a quest to discover the fate of Graveney's last heir, Edmund, a young soldier who disappeared in mysterious circumstances during the First World War. But Greg's investigations force him to question his own views on love and faith, and reveal more about himself than he would ever have imagined.

This is a complex and thought-provoking book, written with elegance and subtlety. It will change the way you think.

The Shell House is a beautifully written and sensitive portrayal of love, sexuality and spirituality over two generations.

Greg's casual interest in the history of a ruined mansion becomes more personal as he slowly discovers the tragic events that overwhelmed its last inhabitants. Set against a background of the modern day and the First World War, Greg's contemporary beliefs become intertwined with those of Edmund, a foot soldier whose confusion about his sexuality and identity mirrors Greg's own feelings of insecurity.


Connected through time by a once stately mansion, now a burned-out shell of its former grandeur, two young men struggle with the contradictions between body and soul in both contemporary England and the barbed-wire battlefields of WWI. In 2002, Greg is a shy photographer who is elated to discover the ruins of Graveney Hall, a crumbling manor undergoing restoration. As he begins to photograph and explore the grounds, he mulls over the strange new feelings he's having for his classmate Jordan, an introspective boy on the school swim team. Meanwhile, he's also been befriended by Faith, an outgoing girl whose strong sense of spirituality draws Greg into several arguments about religion, causing him to wonder how his recent feelings for Jordan fit into the world of Faith's God. In 1917, Edmund is a young aristocratic soldier burdened by family expectations, the brutality of war, and a secret that could destroy his family. While he loves Graveney Hall, he knows that he will never produce the heir required for him to inherit it. Why? Because he is in love with Alex, his superior officer. Both Edmund and Greg strike bargains with God as each decides what he must to do to uncover his secret - or hide it forever.

Passionate and provoking, The Shell House will provide teens with food for thought on a number of compelling issues, including the search for identity, the question of spirituality, and how sexual ethics have changed over time. Fans of Aidan Chambers's similarly themed, Carnegie Award-winning novel, Postcards from No Man's Land, will also enjoy The Shell House. (Ages 13 to 18) - Jennifer Hubert

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