Children’s books are the best books! At the very least on days you hand in your dissertations and just want to read a great, immersive novel. They’re also pretty great on other days. Really, we so-called grown-ups should spend more time reading them in general. And The Hungry Ghost by H. S. Norup is definitely one to keep an eye out for. Emotional, gripping and featuring a girl who does not take no for an answer, it is a book both kids and adults will enjoy.
Many thanks to Poppy Stimpson and Pushkin Press for having me on the blog tour for The Hungry Ghost and for providing me with an advance review copy of the book! All opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
RELEASE DATE: 24/09/2020
SUMMARY: Freja arrives in Singapore during the month of the hungry ghost, when old spirits are said to roam the streets. She’s struggling to settle into her dad’s new, ‘happy’ family, and dreams only of escaping home and leaving this hot, unfamiliar city.
Then one night, a mysterious girl in a white dress appears in the garden. Freja follows this figure to lush, secretive corners of the city, seeking to understand the girl’s identity. Her search will lead her to an old family mystery – one that must be unravelled before the month is over, to allow both girls to be freed from the secrets of the past. (from Pushkin Press)
OPINIONS: So, I just raced through The Hungry Ghost. I could not put it down. Although I found Freja’s character equally frustrating and endearing, her story is compelling, and the mystery around her and Ling is incredibly suspenseful. Freja is the kind of girl who doesn’t take no for an answer, is outdoor-savy, but still manages to navigate her way around Singapore decently well after growing up in Denmark. It just felt like she was doing too well in this very foreign environment while also adjusting to the rest of her new life – I remember how overwhelming Singapore was to me when I visited a few years ago…
Other than that, I thought the cultural setting was well done from the perspective of a foreigner – both as a reader, and as the main character is a foreigner experiencing Singapore. I enjoyed learning more about the idea of the hungry ghosts, and the culture surrounding them, as well as the history of Singapore. However, I do have to add that my evaluation of this might be off, as I’m European!
One of the main issues the book deals, apart from the central theme of the hungry ghosts, is mental health and family dynamics. This is treated with nuance and respect, and struggles are presented as such without going into dramatics that pull the reader out of immersion. Without spoiling anything, issues are written from the perspective of the twelve-year old main character, and presented in a way that is realistic and logical to a child of that age, rather than seeming preachy or omniscient.
I would definitely recommend The Hungry Ghost for both child and adult readers as there are things that both groups can get out of the story, and I think it is also the ideal kind of book for a family to read together in lockdown – imagine reading this aloud over cups of hot cocoa or tea during spooky season!