Newbery, Linda. The Shell House. Laurel Leaf, 2004. ISBN 978-0440237860 352 pp. $
It is impossible not to compare this book to this year’s Carnegie Award winner, for it is the perfect companion novel to Aidan Chamber’s winner Postcards from No Man’s Land (Dutton Books, 2002). Both books delve into issues of world war and burgeoning sexuality with passion, elegance and authentic characters.
In The Shell House, shutterbug Greg is lured to the ruins of a mansion, where he meets a girl whose family is intent on a volunteer project to restore it. Faith becomes a pillar between his internal storm between Greg’s libido and his heart as he tries to figure out his sexual and spiritual identity.
Greg’s story is contrasted with that of Edmund, a gay soldier who once lived in Graveney Hall whose is struggling with similar issues. An element of mystery is thrown in, as Greg and his friend the aptly named Faith are trying to discover the history of the hall and its inhabitants as they assist with the restoration.
Abundant in metaphor and symbolism, the historical detail is excellent and characters and situations realistic but bit dramatic. Still, this would be an excellent book for discussion on many levels, and a possibility for history curriculum frameworks for mature students or progressive schools.