The Adventures of Alice Creek by Emily Knight
Review by Ellen
The Adventures of Alice Creek is a tale of childhood angst…and time travel. Alice feels anonymous at school, where she is just the red haired asthmatic kid. Anonymous to all except the bullies that is, who plague her life. So she wants nothing more than for something to make her special and she’s about to find it hidden in her grandfather’s shed.
Alice has had a particularly bad day when the novel opens and she is bemoaning her troubles to her grandfather, Samuel. He decides the time is right to let her into his big secret and shows her his fantastic electric trainset, laid out in full splendour in the garden shed. Alice soon discovers that it is more than just an impressive toy when she gazes too closely at one of the carriages, blacks out momentarily and awakes to find herself in a real version of the 1930s train!
Shortly afterwards she meets young George, whose last five years have been a nightmare after his older brother vanished. His mother, who is struggling to cope, now forces him to accompany her on monthly pilgrimages by train to the church where his brother disappeared in the hope of finding out what happened. Alice, who believes her access to the modern internet will give her an edge, vows to help find George’s brother in a bid to stop George from having to live in his brother’s shadow. But during their repeated visits to the 1930s Alice and Samuel keep bumping into a mysterious man in a bowler hat, and he appears to have an unhealthy interest in them…
The book looks back to a more elegant era of railway travel, when a journey in one of the beautifully decorated carriages was an occasion in itself. As Samuel looks nostalgically back to the olden days and Alice marvels in wonder the reader is given intricate descriptions of the glorious trains. However the elaborate scene setting does at times slow the pace of the story.
Alice is supposed to be 11 years old but in my head she was consistently about 15. Her wherewithal and confidence in the unknown world of 80 years ago, together with her determination to leave no stone unturned in her quest to help George, made me feel that this would be a more fitting age.
The plot is certainly a fascinating idea. After all, who would turn down the chance to step back in time and explore a bygone age, especially safe in the knowledge that you can return to the 21st century whenever you choose?