Since I am always on the search for something new and different, I can be enticed into trying a story on the strength of a title and little else. This can lead to reading some books that are only average at best but it has also led to me finding some gems in the rough. I was hoping that the latter would be the case when I started “Anais Butt and the Hairy-Handed Gent” by Kate Welshman with almost no idea of what I was going to find inside.
Anais has known that she was different and thought that the fact that she had been expelled from five boarding schools in three years as proof of that. Anais goes to her Nanny Bette’s house to wait for her parents to arrive back in Australia from Singapore and hand down her punishment and send her to another school. At Nanny Bette’s house, she finds a strange young man, Shannon Ferguson, staying with her grandmother for free and discovers that he has even been included in her will. She thinks the young man is extremely odd but Nanny Bette seems completely enthralled by him. Anais’ parents finally arrive and she finds out that she is going to have a fate worse than death: exiled to live with her Nanny Pam in a small town in the middle or nowhere while working on Nanny Pam’s horse farm.
Things get strange when Anais discovers that Shannon has followed her to Nanny Pam’s farm and is living in a ramshackle house on the river. Even stranger, Anais finds herself falling in love with the mysterious man. Nothing is ever simple, however, and Anais must figure out the mystery behind Shannon and the local pastor, Reverend Hobhouse, who has not seemed to age in several decades. On top of all of this, a recent death of a tourist that is attributed to an animal attack has the town and the police on edge while Anais tries to figure out the events around her so that she can get her life back on track.
“Anais Butt and the Hairy-Handed Gent” is a young adult novel although this was easy to forget much of the time. It is a well-written and entertaining novel that has just enough of the offbeat to keep it interesting. While I was thinking that this was going to be a bizarro novel, it is actually a fairly straight-forward story with just a touch of the strange to keep the reader guessing at what Welshman is going to throw their way next. The story loses much of that as it moves to the second half of the story and it becomes a fairly straightforward tale that does lose some of its steam as it moves toward conclusion. All in all, though, this is a good book and one that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
With a touch of the bizarre and more than a touch of the supernatural, “Anais Butt and the Hairy-Handed Gent” is an interesting and effective story of one girl’s journey into her ancestry and in finding her place in the world. Anais is confronted with several dilemmas throughout the course of the story that she faces with a mixture of ingenuity and innocence that is often missing in modern literature. The story is no more bizarre than the ordinary world so the reader feels grounded in the story while unsure about what will happen next. In “Anais Butt and the Hairy-Handed Gent,” Welshman crafts a unique world that remains true to the real while still delving into the fantastic. This is a young adult novel that is suitable for a young reader while complex enough to keep the interest of a more mature audience.
I would like to give a special thank you to NetGalley and The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House for this advanced reading copy. “Anais Butt and the Hairy-Handed Gent” is scheduled to be published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House on November 21, 2013.