Mar 31, 2010

Indigo's Star by Hilary McKay

Indigo's Star by Hilary McKay

The question running through my mind when I started Indigo’s Star was, “Can it possibly be true? Can this really be even better than Saffy’s Angel? The answer to which is yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Indigo’s Star is quite simply a stunning book, and it left me speechless. If you’ve been reading my ramblings for a while, you’ll likely have noticed that I’m a blabber. The more I love a book, the more I want to talk about it in great (and often excessive) detail. But in this particular case, I don’t feel that I could possibly do it justice. I’m tempted to just urge you all to read it and leave it at that, but that would probably be cheating, so I’ll have to try my best.

Let me start with the plot, though the plot isn’t really the point: Thirteen-year-old Indigo Casson is being bullied at school. He was lucky (depending on how you look at it, of course) to get ill enough to miss a whole term, but eventually he recovers and has to go back. However, when the dreaded moment comes, Indigo notices that things have changed. There’s a new boy at school, a student from American named Tom, who has also attracted the attention of The Gang. And although they continue to be harassed, they both soon realise that two is a lot less lonely than one.

Meanwhile, Indigo’s little sister, Rose, has been written furious, loving, hilarious and moving letters to their father Bill. Bill is an artist who lives in London during the week, and who seems to have forgotten to come home at all. And then there’s Saffy and Sarah, looking out for Indigo; and Caddy, trying out new boyfriends to make sure Michael’s the right one; and Tom himself, trying desperately to ignore the truth that lurks behind his stories about an astronaut for a father and a mother who looks after bears at Yellowstone. If this sounds like too many subplots, don’t worry, it isn’t. I should add, though, that this book may be called Indigo’s Star, and Indigo himself may be quite awesome, but as far as I’m concerned Rose completely steals the show.

This is, broadly speaking, What Happens. But what happens won’t tell you much about why Indigo’s Star is so brilliant. For that you have to experience for yourself the way Hilary McKay captures the fierce tenderness between these characters; the way she conveys the full significance of even the smallest of moments between people; the brilliance of her dialogue; the wonderful mix of warmth, humour, gentleness, irony, and real (and sometimes painful) emotions she brings to these stories.

I think I know the reason why I’m having such trouble explaining why I loved this book: it’s because more than to anything specific about the story, what I responded to so strongly was the sensibility behind it. There’s a deep belief here in being emphatic, in connecting to other human beings, in being as kind and decent as you can. It never, ever comes across as heavy-handed, but it permeates everything about the Casson family books. And that’s a big part of the reason why I love them so.

Then there’s also the fact that reading this book was just such a delightful experience. I laughed out loud, I cried, I enjoyed myself tremendously, and I paused in the middle of it to take in the fact that I hadn’t had this much fun with a book in quite a while. I also tried to pace myself so it wouldn’t be over so quickly, but I completely failed to do so. Sadly, Indigo’s Star was devoured in its entirety in a wonderful Saturday afternoon. I want to read the other Casson family books tomorrow (there’s two about Rose!), but part of me also wants to save them – they’re special, special things.

What was the last book that made you feel this way?

Favourite bits:
Darling Daddy
This is Rose.
The shed needs new wires now it has blown up.
Caddy is bringing home rock bottom boyfriends to see if they will do for Mummy. Instead of you.
Love Rose.

‘You can’t be disgusting to people just because they annoy you!’ she exclaimed, very crossly. ‘Thousands of people annoy me! Millions of people annoy millions of people all the time!’
‘That’s true,’ agreed Tom, thinking bitter thoughts of home.
‘You have to put up with them,’ said Rose.
Rose Casson: eight years old and my hero.
‘Are you going to tell me what you wanted that guitar for?’
‘You’ll laugh.’
‘I won’t. Tell me.’
‘For Tom.’
Eve looked at Rose, and she did not laugh. She understood about hearts, even if she did not understand about money. She put an arm around Rose and hugged her tight.
Other opinions:
Jenny’s Books
Library Queue
Book Nut
Bookshelves of Doom

(Did I miss yours?)


  1. Your review has definitely piqued my interest (not to mention curiosity, hehe). Will have to check out the book. Thanks for the lovely review, as always, Ana!

  2. I think you did a great job in conveying why you loved the book, even if you don't feel that way yourself. It made me add the book to my TBR right away.

  3. I loved this book too - a rare occasion where the sequel is even better. I don't think the rest of the series quite live up to the first two (though you may well decide otherwise), but still really worth reading.

  4. OK, I'm off to see if my library has these! I sure hope so. The only trouble is if they do, I really don't want to write a review after yours, as it is so well-done! I'll just say "Read Ana's review!"

  5. I read Saffy's Angel a long time ago. This one is popular at my school library so I'm thinking about reading it for the RAT next week!!

  6. Saffy's Angel is on my wish list because of your wonderful review and now I want this one too:) You are responsible for my never ending wish list:))

  7. This might have been my favorite book of the whole series (although I loved them all). I love how you said the plot isn't the point. I totally agree! There was something in the way the ending came together for me that just seemed brilliant and beautiful.

  8. Sounds very interesting. The topic of bullying is certainly a big one these days!

  9. I'm definitely looking for this one; I want to read them all. Rose was not my favorite character in the first one; I'm thinking she might grow on me as she grows up a bit.

  10. The moment I think my TBR is a little under control, I read some fantastic reviews at your blog, and then it becomes worse than before. Sometimes, that makes me just a little bit mad ;)

  11. I'd never heard of this series and looked it up on Amazon. The U.S. edition covers are much more childish looking and less appealing to me than the image you posted. I would have never considered them if not for this review!

    Is it best to start on book one?

  12. So this sounds gorgeous, but I just looked it up and it looks like I should read Saffy's Angel first? I need to go look up that review of yours. For some reason I don't remember it by the title. Maybe the picture/review will jog my memory.

  13. I *love* the letter from Rose to Daddy! I haven't seen this, but sounds so clever and wonderful!

  14. This sounds great, love your review! Rose sounds hilarious, especially the letters to Daddy. I've added it to the wish list!

  15. I'm so pleased you're enjoying these books as much as I do! I love the beginning bit (unless I'm getting it mixed with the third one) where Caddy's writing to break up with someone and she's putting "Darling darling Peter" because he'll notice if she doesn't. Oh mercy.

    (And you know there's going to be a sixth book? About Caddy when she was twelve?)

  16. Wow, like Amanda, I must have missed your previous review of book 1! I have NEVER heard of this series, but it sounds hilarious. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  17. I wondered if you might read this one next. This is the only one of the set I have read and I remember really enjoying it. I forgot about the letters in it. I may have to go back and read the rest now.

  18. That letter you highlighted is just adorable. And sad simultaneously.

  19. Oh my! This review really captures your excitement over the book, and it's infectious! I haven't yet read anything by this author, but now I feel the intense need to read these books! I will have to grab them up and see if my feelings about them (especially this one) are akin to yours. Wonderfully enthusiastic review!

  20. Why have I never heard of this book or author? It sounds absolutely delicious!

  21. Yes, yes, yes!! This one is my favorite of the series. I ADORE Tom; ok, sure he's a kid, but if I were a kid, I'd have a total crush. Sigh. Makes me want to go reread. (Keep reading the series! Bill gets better, promise.) I agree, though: there's something special about the Cassons.

  22. Awesome review! I can understand why you liked this book - it sounds like a meaningful yet fun read. Sometimes I have trouble expressing why I liked a book, but you did a great job.

    from Une Parole

  23. Off to see if my library has this one right now...

  24. So glad you liked this! I, too, read it in one sitting, completely mesmerised. I'd have to agree with the previous comment that the other books in the series aren't quite as good, but they're still pretty great. And once you've finished them, there's "Rose's blog"! It's brilliant, and helps me cope with Hilary Mckay withdrawl! :)

  25. I swear I thought that was a girl on the cover until you said "he".

  26. Okay, I have no idea how I missed your review of Saffy's Angel, but I obviously need to go read it, too! And I think I just need to add the whole darn batch of them to my wish list right now. I can just tell that I would positively adore these!!!!

  27. Melody: You're most welcome :)

    Iris, thank you! I'm relieved to hear that.

    Verity: That's too bad that the others aren't quite as good, but I know I'll be happy just to have the chance to spend more time with these characters :)

    Sandy: Or you could do what I *really* wanted to do, which was simply say GHGDNNG READ THIS EVERYONE KTHXBAI :P

    Staci: This is a *perfect* read-a-thon choice!

    Andreea: lol, sorry :P

    Tricia: I know! It really, really was :)

    Marie: There was a horribly story on the news here recently: an 11-year-old committed suicide by jumping into a river, and the reason was that he was horribly bullied at school :\ It really is a big topic, and with good reason! Back when I was in middle school it was barely ever discussed.

    Jeanne: I didn't pay too much attention to Rose in Saffy's Angel either, but I just loved her here!

    Hazra: lol, I'm sorry! It's not on purpose :P

    Anna: I think so, yes, though they each have separate plots. And I'm not crazy about the US covers either!

    Amanda: It was that book in which a girl was told not to point at another girl in a wheelchair, but she wasn't pointing AT the wheelchair - she just wanted to make friends. I'm telling you this because you commented on that aspect of the plot specifically, so it might remind you :P Anyway, yes, it's probably best to read them in order.

  28. Jill: And there are plenty more letters where that one came from! They really are very clever, and hilarious, and moving too.

    Amy: Rose is just awesome :D

    Jenny: I didn't know! You're my source for all Hilary McKay news really :P Thank you again for recommending these! And yes, that bit with "Darling darling Peter" is in this book. As is the boyfriend who falls asleep briefly and then is sent away by Saffy, who tells him it's already Sunday evening and he slept for the whole weekend :D

    Aarti, you're welcome! I guess this proves the point that being a tiny bit repetitive is not bad, as not everyone will be able to keep up with or remember every post :P

    Vivienne: You should go back and read the first two, and then read the third one with me :P

    Trisha: Isn't it? Poor Rose!

    Zibilee: I hope they will be! And thank you :)

    Christina: I hadn't either until Jenny reviewed this books last year. Hooray for book bloggers :P

    Melissa: Bill did redeem himself a little bit towards the end of this book :P I look forward to seeing what else will happen.

    Emidy: Thank you! And yes, it was both laugh out lout funny and very meaningful. A perfect combination!

    Ali, fingers crossed that it does!

    Anonymous: I've been saving Rose's blog for when I'm done, yes :P It's comforting to know it's there!

    Lenore: it the eyes? :P

    Debi: I think you would :)

  29. My 9yr old daughter is currently reading this one. Rose is her favorite character. She says she might write a review for my blog! Meanwhile I might have to read the books too if you both love them so much.

  30. Oh, I disagree about the others not being as good! They're all superbly delightful, but the two Rose books are my favorite.

    This series is just so perfect that I'm afraid to read McKay's sequel to A Little Princess. Normally, I would be afraid because how could anyone right a decent sequel to A Little Princess? But in this case, I'm afraid because what if it's not as good as the Casson family?

  31. Gaskella, yes you must! And I look forward to your daughter's guest review :)

    Jennie: I'm very happy to hear that! I love Rose so much that I can't imagine not liking the two books about her. And this is where I confess I haven't read A Little Princess :P It's on the list for this year, though. I didn't know she'd written a sequel!

  32. I feel exactly the same way about this book as you do!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.