It was a good school, one of the best in London.
The opportunity for a new life in an exotic location can often lead to fantastical expectation as newly orphaned Maia experiences when she is told she has to move to Brazil to live with her only living relatives. Set in the early twentieth century, in a time where adventure still reined supreme and far off lands really were, well, far off, Journey to the River Sea details the journey of one lonely British orphan who finds new worlds and rediscovers where she belongs.
This beautifully written novel is an Amazonian adventure tale with a fast-paced plot and a charming narrative. Ibbotson conjures up atmospheric scenery with just a few short sentences, enveloping the reader with the deep jungle and exotic setting of her tale – in short she is a magician with words! The story never stands still and sweeps the reader up in the adventures of Maia as her world moves from London to the Brazilian town of Manaus.
With elements of Cinderella woven throughout, as well as mini-homage to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy, there is a classic yet contemporary feel to Maia’s story that I really adored. It feels like a classic children’s tale and yet retains a freshness and unpredictability in its execution. The new world Maia wishes for is unrealised when she first arrives in Manaus and encounters the home of the close-minded Carters and their obsessive concern for money and retaining their Britishness. Maia soon learns by experience the spirit of adventure, the need to explore to expand the mind and the importance of loyalty, friendship and faith.
There are many things reading this book made me wish. I wish I had the carefree spirit to venture into the unknown like Maia (I’m way too much of a planner!). I wish I had the mystique of Miss Minton and the natural instincts of Finn. But most of all I wish I had read Ibbotson when I was younger – I feel we would have been kindred spirits but in this case it’s definitely better late than never!