When I tried to describe Elizabeth and Zenobia by Jessica Miller in a few words, this is what I came up with: a cute gothic horror novel for children. That’s definitely a genre I’ve never heard of before… but an awesome genre!
Goodreads synopsis: Abandoned by her mother and neglected by her scientist father, timid Elizabeth Murmur has only her fearless friend, Zenobia, for company. And Zenobia’s company can be very trying! When Elizabeth’s father takes them to live in his family home, Witheringe House, Zenobia becomes obsessed with finding a ghost in the creepy old mansion and forces Elizabeth to hold séances and wander the rooms at night. With Zenobia’s constant pushing, Elizabeth investigates the history of the house and learns that it does hold a terrible secret: Her father’s younger sister disappeared from the grounds without a trace years ago.
My rating: 4 stars.
Elizabeth and Zenobia has that eerie gothic atmosphere, without being too scary. I think I would have loved it as a kid – I definitely loved it now, as an adult. The protagonist, Elizabeth, is scared of a lot of things, which I could definitely relate to. Her invisible friend Zenobia is quite a character. Imagining myself as a child, Elizabeth is who I was, and Zenobia is who I wanted to be.
“I wonder what sort of a Spirit ours will be. If it does prove to be the blood-dripping kind-”
“I was only going to say it might improve the wallpaper.”
The style of this book is amazing – like I said, gothic horror for kids – and there are wonderful illustrations throughout. I like the way this book deals with the supernatural. Supernatural things are definitely happening, but they’re never what they seem. Elizabeth and Zenobia go looking for a ghost, and find a parallel world called the Plant Kingdom. The housekeeper who constantly makes sudden appearances is probably just really quiet, but there definitely is something up with the gardener no one in the house knows about. And Zenobia… we never really find out why no one but Elizabeth can see her, and why she can make strange things happen. Elizabeth and Zenobia leaves things up to the imagination, and I loved that. Explaining everything would only ruin the mystery.
Zenobia clasped at the grayness with her thin white hands and gathered it close. “I think there is something deliciously bleak about fog, don’t you, Elizabeth?”
“No. And the train leaves in seven minutes and if-”
“I wish I could keep a scrap of fog in my pocket for whenever the weather got oppressively nice.”
I would recommend Elizabeth and Zenobia to any child who likes a spooky read, and to any adult who loves children’s books and an eerie atmosphere. It’s perfect for Halloween!
I received this book as an eARC from Netgalley.