The Shell House

The Shell House

by Linda Newbery

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)

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Greg’s casual interest in the history of a ruined mansion becomes more personal as he slowly discovers the tragic events that overwhelmed its last inhabitants. Set against a background of the modern day and the First World War, Greg’s contemporary beliefs become intertwined with those of Edmund, a foot soldier whose confusion about his sexuality and identity mirrors Greg’s own feelings of insecurity.

This is a complex and thought-provoking book, written with elegance and subtlety. It will change the way you think.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440237860
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 04/13/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.88(h) x 0.89(d)
Age Range: 12 - 16 Years

About the Author

Linda Newbery has written over 20 books for young people. This is her first for David Fickling Books.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

He couldn't face going back indoors.

If he walked in, their faces would look up at him, polite, expectant; they would be ready to make allowances. The meal would be finished: his plate and his scattered cutlery would have been removed from the table, his toppled chair replaced. His mother would have said something to smooth over his rudeness, and the others would make sympathetic noises, some of them genuine.

No-one understood. They would be having coffee now, passing the cream, passing the sugar, in the large room with the windows closed against the spring evening, as if nothing had changed.

Everything had changed.

At the top of the steps to the garden, he filled his lungs with cool air. It was dusk. Light from the windows fell on the terrace, and a fountain played below. Its soft, regular trickle ought to have been soofi-dng, but nothing could soothe him; he had to get away, down the steps, out of sight of the house. Mown lawn welcomed his feet, yielding silently to his

I tread. The cool toughness of cypress leaves brushed his face as he pushed through a row of conifers; the air smelled of grass and damp earth. He closed his eyes as memory surged through him like the delayed aftershock of pain. He felt detached from his body: from his walking feet, his breathing lungs, his mind registering smells and sounds.

In the lower garden, he paused for a moment to listen, looking in the direction of London, thinking of Kent beyond, and the coast. People said that you could sometimes hear the guns, even at this distance. Nothing. He felt oddly disappointed, hearing only the whirr of moth wings, seeing the flicker of a bat; an owl hooted down in the woods. Nothing else disturbed the silence.

He lowered his head and walked on, down a flight of steps towards the glimmer of water, along a mossy path to the grotto.

Chain gang

Greg's photograph: a huge eighteenth-century mansion standing alone. It is built in classical style: weighty, monumental, symmetrical. The frontage is of Portland stone; twinflights of steps rise to the pillared main entrance. The central section is surmounted by a decorative triangular panel sculpted with recliningfigures and a Latin inscription. At a glance, you'd think you were looking at a stately home - a National Trust property, perhaps. Only when you look properly do you see that the door and windows are blank, that there is no roof, and that the house is an empty shell.

'You can't do it,' said Faith. 'You can't make a bargain with God.'

Greg would always remember her saying that, in the grotto, where cold sunlight on the lake rippled patterns of light on the curve of the wall. She sat shrugged into her fleece jacket, her hands tucked up inside the sleeves; her eyes were dark and intense. She

was a girl in a shell, cupped and held like a pearl in an oyster. He saw her as part of an accidentally beautiful composition: dark hair and eyes, scarlet fleece, tile fragments in a swirling pattern behind her. Frame, click! went his mental camera. These were the photographs that stayed in his mind: the ones he hadn't taken.

The first time they met, at the end of summer, he saw her as bossy, imperious. She manipulated him.

He was trespassing. The burnt-out mansion was visible from the main road: sometimes a silhouette on its ridge, sometimes golden in sunlight. Out on his bike with hours of Sunday freedom ahead, he had let curiosity reel him in. He cycled past the sign that said GRAVENEY HALL - PRIVATE on the lodge gates, and on down the long driveway to the ruined mansion, with its commanding position over acres of wheatfields and woods. If it hadn't been for the cars parked along the front drive, he would have poked about, inside and out, taking photographs, ignoring the DANGER signs. He hadn't expected anyone to be here, and was annoyed.

The day was still and humid; sweat trickled between his shoulder-blades and down his back. He leaned his bike against the fence and stood gazing up at the vast shell. Must have been some fire, he thought, to destroy a place this size. It was roofless, open to the sky. All the doors and windows were huge, as if the house had been inhabited by giants.

Most of the outer walls were intact, but through a door beneath the steps he glimpsed piles of collapsed brick, and nettles and even slender trees growing out of the debris. Although the house must be past repair, he saw people working inside, a team of them: shovelling, hacking at the layer of sediment that coated the ground, carting stones in wheelbarrows. A woman with a tray of mugs was picking her way across the rough floor. He hung back, expecting to be challenged, but they were all absorbed in their tasks.

Retreating, he found a way through the makeshift fence that ran along the farthest side of the house, making the place look like a building site. The house was almost as deep as it was wide; there were remains of brick walls here, perhaps from extensions or a conservatory. Making his way round to the back, he emerged into an expanse of derelict garden. He saw a pair of stone surnmerhouses, and a balustrade dividing the garden into two levels. From the driveway, you wouldn't know this was here at all. He took two photographs, imagining how the garden must have looked a hundred and fifty, two hundred years ago. There must have been statues, fountains, the lot, and a whole team of gardeners. The outlines were still visible: the bases of statues, and a raised walk of rough grass down the whole length, with sunken areas either side. And this was only the formal part. He guessed that there would have been more: a kitchen garden for the house, orchards, wooded areas down in the valley.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Shell House 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
LibraryLou on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book with my teenage reading group for the Carnegie Medal. The all loved it, and wanted it to win, as did I, but we were astonished at the controversy it caused. Everywhere librarians and teachers were sprouting nonsense about it being inappropriate, and leading children astray, just because it dealt with the issue of homosexuality , sex, and a teenage boy struggling to find his own identity, while also tackling the tricky subject of religion. Set alongside the story of a house, now in ruins, it is a moving book that allows the reader to share in the experiences of this boy, and for the teenage audience to finally have a character they can recognize and sympathize with, one who really is going through a big change in his life, just as they are. It is a brilliant book,and I admire the author for having the courage to write about things that others find hard to handle. It is refreshing to see that someone is sensible enough to see that our children are going to be exposed to different opinions and beliefs, and that is only by allowing them to fully explore their own ideas that we can trust them to make sensible decisions in life. Hiding them away from things we think are bad will only draw them closer to making the wrong choices, and if we love them we should accept them, whatever life they choose to live. I am sure this book has change the lives of some that read it, and if you read some of the reviews on Amazon this is reflected.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If a house can be made of shells, can my house be made of completly dog crap. I should try that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Looks like someone is Mister optomistic wolf." ~Millie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Swims in and puts her sea horse away. Knows she cat live lke thism ~ Clover
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I would rate this book a two. I thought this book was kind of bad .My book was a twist of two characters. The characters Greg and Edmund were in two different dimensions. When all of a sudden Greg meets a girl named faith who is Christian .While Greg still does not believe in god. He and Her struggle with the conflicts of not believing while they discover the Graveney Hall. They go there trying to uncover the mystery of Edmund Pearson. This book is an example of dramatic irony because you read about Edmunds world and Greg¿s world. So while Greg is trying to figure out the mystery you already know it. When you learn what the world is about you discover the mystery of the murder and disappearance no one could solve. Here is a brief paragraph of my book. Mental pictures I have seen. I have a lot of them but no one can know they are a secret like many others. My secret about Jordan my love life it is all a secret. Know one can know. Me and my pictures are scary but know one knows this .They is so secret they make me jitter. Like the time I was down on the lake with faith. We just had that argument about god and I felt really bad because I broke her crucifix. It does not bother me though because of course I do not believe in god not till I had that day when we where out at graveny hall it was kind of spooky hay I just got an idea let me explain it to you¿ Now that you know some of the story I bet you want to know the rest¿ The pros of this book are that you get a sense of romance and mystery at the same time. You get to feel like you are actually in the book. The cons of this book are that the book is some what confusing and hard to follow with all of the changing in characters. The reason why I did not like this book is because Edmund and Justin have a secret that if they get caught they could be killed. Why they could be killed is because they are facing the conflict of the world war one were the Jews face Hitler. So the other reason why I did not like this book is because it gives to much detail .The book is not part of the series so if you want to read it you can read it straight from the shelf. Half of this book reminds me of CSI and the other half don¿t really remind me of anything. If you enjoy reading this book you might won¿t to read some of the color me books .So I have some questions for you is the reason for Edmunds death because of the secret? Will Greg¿s confusion of god be solved? Will Greg tell his secret? I know and you will have to read the book to find out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i really liked this book because of its outlook on controversial subjects, enthralling plot, and likable characters...but i can't help but think there was no resolution because it ended with this revelation...but he didn't act on it...ahh i wish there was a sequel!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Shell House is an amazing story of life. It follows a modern teenage boy through his confusion with his sexuality and religion, as his life parallels with that of a WW1 soldier, Edmund. Edmund was the last inhabitant of the great mansion, Graveney Hall, which Greg is thoroughly intrigued by.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sup guys.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Swirl looks at amy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful mermaid swam from the shadows. She was singing a seductive song that pulled jake toward her. "Love at first sight.Come my love." She sang.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Swims in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hungy hungy