I got Journey to the River Sea from my library. It was recommended at the conference I went to in 2011, which started me off as a self-published MG author. I read one of Eva Ibbotson’s (many) other books a while back—The Dragonfly Pool—and loved it. My main reason for reading this now was to get a J for my Alphabet Soup Challenge, but it also takes a book off my TBR list from January 2012!
Journey to the River Sea
A new cover edition [2014 UK paperback] of this award-winning classic adventure from Eva Ibbotson in which orphaned Maia travels from England to the Amazon with her governess.
It is 1910 and Maia, tragically orphaned at thirteen, has been sent from England to start a new life with distant relatives in Manaus, hundreds of miles up the Amazon. She is accompanied by an eccentric and mysterious governess who has secret reasons of her own for making the journey. Both soon discover an exotic world bursting with new experiences in this highly colourful, joyous adventure. [Goodreads]
Throughout this book I had a strange sense of déja vu. I don’t know whether I’d read it a long time ago, or just seen a film. What I do know is that this is a beautiful book.
In some ways it shows its age, as the characters are a formulaic lot. The rubber-planting relatives want Maia’s money but not her presence. The strange boy talks with animals and knows medicinal plants but speaks perfect English. The kind locals detest their employers. The eccentric governess definitely has secrets. A pair of detectives looking for the son of a dead naturalist who happened to be the heir to a title. For a young reader, a formula never gets in the way of a good story, and this is an excellent one.
What I like most is the way Ms Ibbotson brings the world about the story to life. There is never just a forest: there is a forest in which things are scampering and slithering; jewelled eyes peer from luscious leaves; dank smells emerged from crushed earth. The story is nicely twisted and turned, although this one has a kind of false ending, which invites the reader to consider ‘what happens afterwards’ and eventually uncovers further layers of plot, tying up all the loose ends.
Journey to the River Sea is an ideal book for the gentler reader who enjoys tales of foreign parts, doesn’t mind creepy crawlies, and longs for things to work out well in the end. Nothing flashy, just a good adventure to sink your imagination into. Highly recommended.