The Rinaldi Ring

Jenny Nimmo

Review of Book
The book's hero is called Eliot. This boy loses his mom very early in his young life. He's an American preadolescent and he is about to experience some very strange things in England.

But first things first. Eliot's life is falling apart when he and his mom take a walk through a park. They've taken a path they've been warned of. Inevitably they are robbed and his mother is stabbed to death by one of the criminals. In his grief, Eliot acquires the sad habit of running away. His father is unwilling to cope with the whole situation. After several incidents, his father decides to let his son be fostered by his sister, Sophie, who's living in a small village in the English countryside. She is married and has two daughters, Noni and Violet. Surprisingly enough Eliot likes the new family and the house he is forced to live in. The Pipers are a friendly family and Eliot has the feeling of being safe and cared for. He senses a spirit that's helping him to settle in.

After a few weeks, things start to change. Eliot experiences strange things, like the permanent scent of sweet rocket (for the botanists among us: Hesperis matronalis) or cracking mirrors and flying books that hurt one of his cousins. Sophie loses her faith in Eliot after several incidents which she believes are Eliot's deeds. Sophie thinks that Eliot's odd behaviour is due to his loss and to the fact that his father doesn't do anything to help his son in this difficult situation. Things really start getting creepy when he meets Freya Greymark, a dark and sinister character who terrorises the whole village. She turns out to be Eliot's permanent object of angst the first time they meet. Well it isn't Eliot's emotion actually, another person seems to take over inside of him. He realizes that he's being haunted by a presence from the past and that this presence makes him do things he would never have done. Gradually, Eliot uncovers a strange story from First World War, about a young girl called Mary-Ellen. She once was imprisoned in the room he's now living in and ultimately threw herself off a bridge, supposedly to be mad at the death of her lover, Orlando Rinaldi, a soldier in the First World War. Mary-Ellen's presence is in search of a ring, the Rinaldi ring that has been stolen from her by Freya's mother. A tragedy is uncovered, a huge betrayal is made up and most important for our hero, he and his father are reunited by Eliot's bravery.

The book is aimed at an audience ranging from 9-13 years. It is written in a very clever way, so I would recommend it for young people from 11 years and older. A mixture of mystery and ghost story that also embraces the dark memories of the times of First World War, interwoven with a classical father / son conflict. It uses flashbacks in a rather unexpected way, so the listener is forced to pay close attention in order to get all the small hints that sum up to the big picture that solves all the riddles and questions. It is written in a tempting way, you'll be drawn closer and closer to that ever burning question: what happened to Mary-Ellen and her lover and how can one explain Eliot's strange connection to this doomed-to-failure couple from the past? The story uses the narration method of mirroring. In our time Eliot's father loses his love, in the past Mary-Ellen loses her Orlando. Mary-Ellen has to give away her new born baby, because people think that she's insane. Eliot's father abandons his son, because he's too busy being in grief. Eliot redeems everyone. Nice Nat trivia in this one: The poems of Wilfred Owen draw Eliot into the life and times of First World War soldiers. War Requiem is just around the corner!

Nat's Reading
The way this book is being performed is my favourite - just plain words, no music, no sound effects. All is being stripped down to Nat's voice and his talent to give life to each and every character. Eliot, our hero, well, he is a very small boy one time and the other he's very grown-up, just like a boy at 11-years-old (give or take) would be. And yes, Nat does portray this brave young fellow with so much emotion, one is near to tears when he's being punished for the things he didn't do. The British village and farm people are extreme fun to listen to. The broken voice of Freya Greymark, her development as she's forced to face her own ghosts that haunt her, is very impressive. A whole bunch of accents are to be displayed and for Nat it seems as a matter of routine to master over 15 characters, all unique in their own diction. I found it hard to stop listening, especially after having heard the first half of this book. I liked Eliot's father best, his despair over his lost wife and his unwillingness to supply the emotional needs of his son is one of his finest performances I've listened to so far.

Published by
Chivers Audio Books
ISBN 07540 5150 1
Running Time 4:45

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