Title: The Star of Kazan
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Age Rating: 11+
Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆
I purchased this book, having recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Ibbotson’s ‘Journey to the River Sea’: an enchanting tale of first impressions, orphanage, and adventure, reviewed here. I intended for it to be quite similar because I loved Ibbotson’s technique of contrasting new surroundings with new characters who are not all as they seem. I did not realize quite how similar the two titles would be, however! The structure of the story was as it was with ‘River Sea’. Annika is a young orphan girl, who was found by two kindly housemaids – Ellie and Sigrid, and taken to their employers house in Vienna. The house is that of three Professors, who are at first, completely against having a baby in their house:
“It’s absolutely against the question that we should have a baby to stay in this house,” said Professor Julius.
Professor Emil nodded. “The noise…”
“The disturbance,” said Professor Gertrude.
But the three professors soon became fond of the quiet, orphan girl and agreed to Ellie and Sigrid keeping and looking after Annika, as she was named, in the servants quarters. The story then skips twelve years later when Annika is older and her kindly founders are even more fond of her than ever. There is then a highly enjoyable account of how settled Annika is in her new home, etc
It is made clear how Annika is very happy. She has many friends, including a rather unusual one which is an old sick lady. The woman is a relation of someone Annika knows – a very spoilt young girl from a rich background, and the old lady is staying at her house because she is unwell. Annika regularly visits her, and one day, the woman shows her a treasure trove… Jewels, diamonds: good enough to be possessions of royalty. That is except for one minor detail. They are fake. The old woman had had to sell the real ones years ago, and had to be content with fake copies. The two companions became so inseparable that the woman left her jewels to Annika, when she had died.
Despite Annika’s unbreakable happiness, she oftens ponders the missing aspect of her childhood: her family. And so you can imagine the surprise – the utter joy that the girl feels when her mother does turn up. To claim her daughter. And Ellie and Sigrid’s unhappiness is unimaginable. Annika’s mother is a rich owner of a massive estate in Spittal (Germany). Here she meets all her relations: her Uncle Oswald, brother: Herman and cousin – Gudrun, but somehow, none of it feels like happiness. Annika tries hard to fit in – to enjoy the wealth and finery she is now enclosed in, but still, none of it is happiness. Her only true friend is Zed, who works on the farm and though he is comforting and kind, Annika could still feel no true happiness. She wondered about her friends back in Vienna. And Ellie and Sigrid. And then she realises how truly happy things were back there.
In the meantime, Annika is curious about the papers her mother made her sign, and her suddenly arranged trip to Zurich.
And then one day, by chance, when Annika and Zed are out walking, Annika comes across the only familiarity and comfort she had witnessed her whole time at Spittal. The old Great-Aunt’s trunk! But it was incased in mud and discarded in a lake – without the jewels!
Very like ‘River Sea’ because, like how the Carters’ adopt Maia for reasons they do not confess to, Annika’s mother does the same.
What is going on at Spittal? Is Annika’s mother all as she seems? Find out by reading this highly recommended book and discover he truth of Annika’s mother. Definitely worthy of a four star rating. Excellent description, an amazing fast paced storyline and overall – a story that everyone should learn from.