Title: The History of Mischief
Author: Rebecca Higgie
Published: September 1st 2020
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Genres: Fiction, Children – Middle Grade
Rating: 4.5 stars
‘There is madness in it.’
‘Yes. But magic too.’
Following the death of their parents, Jessie and her older sister Kay move to their grandmother’s abandoned house. One night they discover The History of Mischief hidden beneath the floor: it is like no book they have ever seen.
From Ancient Greece to war-torn China, from the Ethiopian Empire to Victorian England, the pages reveal a world of mischief and mystery, adventure and adversity – stolen bones and fiery dragons, feisty philosophers and tempestuous tyrants, shape-shifting trees and scorched scrolls.
But not everything is as it seems, in the book or in her life, and Jessie is determined to find the truth. The History has a history of its own. Unravelling its secrets might be the biggest mischief of all.
The winner of the 2019 Fogarty Award, The History of Mischief by Perth writer Rebecca Higgie was published by Fremantle Press in 2020. Higgie’s debut is a creative masterpiece that stitches together a tapestry of themes represented by the various motifs that adorn the front cover. The History of Mischief regales moments of history, adventure, the power of the written word, fantasy, love, family and loss. This is an enchanting read for teen readers and adults alike.
The History of Mischief is a story of overwhelming grief. We meet siblings Jessie and Kay, who have been left behind, following the devastating loss of both their parents in an accident. Following the loss of their parents, Kay is given guardianship of young Jessie. Now based at their grandmother’s house, Jessie and Kay unearth a startling book beneath the floorboards of their grandmother’s house. This book proves to be a strange and bewitching tale. Once they open the book, Jessie and Kay unlock a magical journey into the past. This fantastical book takes the siblings from Ancient Greece, to Ethiopia and eventually back to their home in Australia. Along the way they encounter unforgettable figures, old fables, mystical beings and key artefacts. This incredible expedition, which is all powered by the written word, implores young Jessie to connect with her local library to unlock the truth to these events. The weight of the secrets this one of a kind book reveals makes its mark on the impressionable Jessie, a child clearly suffering from the loss of her parents at such a young age.
In the crowded book and publishing world it is hard to gain the attention of readers, especially with the flood of releases that have arrived in recent months. Rebecca Higgie is a local West Australian based writer, who spent over a decade penning her debut release, The History of Mischief. I have to say, this book is like no other. The History of Mischief is a special, unique, one of a kind book and I found it impossible to assign this story to a particular category or readership. It is a book that has universal appeal and although it is marketed as a young adult offering, I can state with confidence that I enjoyed this one as an adult reader.
I really liked the way The History of Mischief was configured. We are presented with present day family complication, the tragic loss of two parents to siblings Jessie and Kay. The chance discovery of a strange book at their grandmother’s vacant home kicks starts this amazing journey into the past. We move effortlessly thanks to Higgie’s refined prose from Ancient Greece, to China, Ethiopia, Poland, England and we finally land back in Australia. The family mystery linked to this magical adventure and fantasy based sojourn was what truly won me over. I was deeply invested in Jessie’s investigations into her family’s lineage and past. This was my favourite aspect of the novel.
Despite my clear aversion to anything of a magical and fantasy based nature, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Each new chapter delivered a different adventure, along with an intriguing mischief to uncover. I liked the concept of a mischief marking key moments in time, it was an original idea and I valued how the mischief managed to drive this novel in a forward motion. Higgie has clearly carefully researched each of the separate historical worlds she presents on the pages of her novel.
As much as The History of Mischief is a book of travel and the lure of the written word, we also are presented with a set of modern contemporary issues. From siblings relationships, overcoming loss, education, trauma, friendships, acceptance, judgement, prejudice, love, secrets and parenting, The History of Mischief contains many lines of interest. Characterisation is one of this book’s clear strengths and the reader will be hard pressed not to develop a sense of affection for Jessie’s friend Theodore and the very odd, but misunderstood neighbour figure. I also felt that Higgie did an excellent job of embodying the heart and mind of young Jessie, the lead youth protagonist. However, the true highlight for me was the emphasis on the value of public library establishments in our search for the truth, especially as Jessie tries to align the events contained in The History of Mischief to real life historical moments. This aspect of the story propelled Higgie’s novel to great heights for me.
As the final curtain draws near, the reader is taken on a far reaching undertaking. The History of Mischief offers a life changing and remarkable reading experience, filled with unforgettable figures. It takes you through the pages of history, in a tender tribute to the command of the written word and the true value of libraries in accessing knowledge. Rebecca Higgie has a brand new fan and I am eagerly anticipating what literary magic she will present her readers with next!
The History of Mischief by Rebecca Higgie was published on 1st September 2020 by Fremantle Press. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The History of Mischief, Rebecca Higgie, visit here.
The History of Mischief is book #134 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge