Norton is a small, quiet seaside town in England where nothing exciting ever happens. It's the early 1950s, not long after the end of the second world war, and memories of Nazi attacks are still fresh in the minds of many. The war with Germany touched every family in Britain, and it will take time for people to regain their confidence.
Thirteen-year-old Lizzie lives with her elder sister and mum and dad in Norton, and at times she could scream because family life there is so dull. That all changes when a girl called Natalie arrives at Lizzie's school. Natalie is a wild young lady from the wrong side of the tracks. Other girls stay well clear of her, but Lizzie is drawn to the danger she sees in the new girl.
Diana Hendry's The Seeing is a short, tight novel about a dangerous friendship that spirals out of control. Hendry grabs hold of the reader in the first pages of the story and does not let go until the final tragedy ends the dangerous friendship between the girls. The Seeing is a thrilling and disturbing read that sees the troubled Natalie draw Lizzie into her web of hate and threat.
Natalie has an eight-year old brother called Philip, a poor, neglected boy who clings to his sister like glue. Natalie tells Lizzie a secret that no one else knows: Philip has "second" sight, and he can identify people in the town who still have Nazi sympathies. These realisations, or "seeings", allow him to see the evil inside others.
The people of Norton must be protected from the Nazi threat that is still lying low in the town. It is up to Natalie and Lizzie to root out these individuals and drive them away. What Lizzie first thinks is an exciting game soon goes off on a frightening and ultimately devastating track.
The Seeing is a powerful novel packed with suspense and atmosphere, and the girls who drive the story are expertly presented. Natalie's gradual brainwashing of Lizzie is disturbing, but totally believable, and the dynamics between the two girls and the pathetic little boy in the middle is fascinating. As the story gains momentum and Natalie tightens her grip, so Hendry tightens her stranglehold on the reader.
Philip can see the Nazi swastika printed on the hearts of evil people. The effect his "seeing" has on the two girls is devastating, and the ensuing path to tragedy makes The Seeing a stand-out, thrilling read.
John Millen can be contacted on [email protected]