Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Tiger in the Well

The Tiger in the Well

Philip Pullman
For ages 14 and up
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Performed/read by: Anton Lesser
Listening Library, 2008   ISBN: 978-0739371534

Sally Lockhart is content with her life. Her business is doing well enough now that she now has a partner to help her. Best of all,  Sally now has Harriet, her little daughter, in her life. Harriet's father Frederick Garland was killed in a fire on the night that the child was conceived, and as Sally and Frederick were not yet married, Harriet is illegitimate, but this does not concern Sally in the slightest.

At least it does not concern her until the day when a complete stranger, a Mr. Parrish, says that he is her husband. Not only that, but he wants a divorce and plans on taking Harriet away from Sally. At first Sally can hardly believe that Mr. Parrish is serious. Surely this whole thing must be some misunderstanding. However, she soon discovers that Mr. Parrish is very much in earnest. He has had records created for the so called marriage, and has made sure that Sally comes out looking like an unrespectable, immoral woman who has no right to bring up her child herself. Worse still, he seems to have the law on his side, even though his story is a complete fabrication.

It isn't long before Sally and Harriet are on the run. Mr. Parrish seems to have many contacts and resources and it is hard to stay hidden from him. All Sally wants to do is to keep Harriet with her while she does what she can to discredit Mr. Parrish and the lies that he is telling.

Thankfully Sally is not the only one who is looking into the activities of Mr. Parrish. There is a group of people who suspects  that Mr. Parrish is involved with an organization that steals from and abuses Jewish immigrants who are coming to England looking for a new life. By joining up with these people, Sally hopes that the truth will finally be able to come out about Parrish, his activities, and the evil man he works for.

Listeners will find this gripping tale extremely addictive. They will also find many of the descriptions shocking, for the author does not gloss over the violence and cruelty that was common in English society in the late 1800's. For the poor there was little hope that their lives would improve, and many foreign arrivals were treated very badly indeed. Sally very suddenly finds herself living amongst these people of the under classes. She is shocked by what she sees, and is appalled that people are forced to live in such squalor and misery in a great city like London. She also learns a great deal about herself, and is forced to accept that until now, her life has been very protected and comfortable. She has been cushioned from the harsh realities of life. Now however she is having the worst of the worst thrown in her face, and she has to use all her strength and her wits to keep herself and Harriet safe from their enemies.

Beautifully read by Anton Lesser, this is the kind of audio title which will make a long journey in a plan or a car seem very short indeed.