In the Cards

sandersont04pic1.jpg From the very first line, when our romantic heroine Rosa sees Andy Byron, ‘cluttering up the picturesque scene,’ the tone is set for this original and humorous teenage novel, set in and around Edinburgh. Rosa is traipsing around the woods near her family’s new house in the country, where they have moved because her annoyingly precocious violin-playing younger brother has asthma. Rather than contemplating the romantic possibilities that a glimpse of a dark-haired, leather-jacketed stranger might arouse, Rosa is seriously annoyed that this ‘loathsome boy’ has interrupted her lonely musings. In her opinion, she has been dragged away from all her friends to the back of beyond, a long-bus ride from her city school and regular haunts.

Having been introduced to Rosa and her broodings, we meet her mum Tasha, wielding cleaning products in an attempt to ready the house for an influx of removal men. Her down to earth resistance to ‘New Age palaver’ is brought into question when Rosa comes across her hidden tarot deck whilst unpacking. The symbolic cards exert an instant fascination over her. There seems to be a contradiction between her mum’s current attitude to all things magical and the possible implication of mystical talent. Perhaps there is a gentle hint to teenage readers to think of their mothers as real people with interesting pasts and a life before they existed.

Naturally, Rosa can’t resist having a go at reading the cards herself, despite being forbidden by her mum – and to the disgust of her rational-minded friend Clary. There are scary consequences. Rosa also reassesses her dark horse neighbour and he reciprocates her growing interest. Fortunately for the path of young love, he lives nearby with his mother in a crumbling mansion. With Andy in tow, Rosa investigates Tasha’s past, discovering shared art school connections between her and Andy’s mother and a clash between them that had life-changing consequences.

The Tarot Reader’s Daughter is an absorbing and amusing journey of self-discovery and adolescent love. Helen Dunwoodie is a keen observer of social differences, conveying them through dialogue smattered with lively Scots words and expressions. She also realises settings convincingly, particularly her portrayal of Edinburgh, with its elevated heights and seedy depths.

The Tarot Reader’s Daughter is published by Corgi Books paperback, £5.99

© Thursa Sanderson