During this year’s Teen Summer Reading program, the Teen Department has two book clubs—one in June and the other in July. (The June club is not accepting any more members, but registration for our July book club will begin on July 3rd). The Young Adult Advisory Council chose the books for both clubs. June’s club is reading A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce.
When Charlotte Miller’s father passes away, his death leaves a mountain of responsibility for his elder daughter. The woolen mill that has been in her family for generations, the village it supports, and her younger sister Rosie are now Charlotte’s to protect and care for. As if that weren’t enough, Charlotte is blind-sighted by a hefty and secret mortgage, an uncle whose motives for helping the girls may not be all he says they are, and a run of bad luck that seems to have sinister origins.
When Charlotte reaches the breaking point and things look their darkest, help comes in the form of a little man who can spin straw into gold whose only fee is the ring Charlotte’s mother wore. Facing financial ruin, Charlotte has no choice but to take the deal. True to his word, Jack Spinner spins a room full of straw into spools of fine gold thread. Charlotte is able to sell the thread and pay the handsome banker, but Jack Spinner and the curse on the mill is not finished with Charlotte yet.
Elizabeth Bunce uses the Rumpelstiltskin tale as the base for her story, but there is more depth here than just a fairy tale retelling. The historical setting (Britain in the late 1700s) is well researched and meticulously painted and the daily workings of the mill are equally well described. Bunce points out some of the ways she deviates from history in her author’s note, but readers not familiar with those aspects of the Industrial Revolution will be hard pressed to pick out the creative license.
Bunce’s character development is done well enough that readers will ache with Charlotte as her world begins to crumble. The other characters that comprise Charlotte’s inner circle—her sister, her love interest, and her uncle—are equally real and distinctive.
The pacing at the beginning of the story is a little slower than I like, but I stuck with Charlotte and was rewarded by a truly great historical fiction tale with just enough fantasy, mystery, and romance. A Curse Dark as Gold is an excellent choice for teens and adults who like any of the above genres.
I am excited to write that Elizabeth Bunce will be visiting the Joplin Public Library on Saturday June 23 at 10am in the Library’s large meeting room. Ms. Bunce will be available to sign copies of her books following her presentation. Changing Hands Book Shoppe will have copies of A Curse Dark as Gold and Bunce’s other titles (Star Crossed and Liar’s Moon) for sale at the event. This event is open to all ages.
As mentioned above, teens interested in July’s book club can register at the Teen Desk between July 3rd and 11th. We’ll be reading Brian Katcher’s Almost Perfect. Members of the book club will receive a free copy of Almost Perfect courtesy of General Mills.