The Valley of Secrets
Ages 12 and up
Unabridged Audiobook (Cassette)
Read by Charles Keating
Listening Library, 2005, 0-307-20651-3
Lansbury Hall is a strange place, so strange in fact that people living in the nearby village avoid it at all costs. No one and nothing has gone in or come out of the place in years. Then one day Fernley the postman finds a letter lying on the road outside the gates of the Hall and a whole extraordinary chain of events begins to unfold.
Stephen was raised in an orphanage and now he is in London, feeling very lost and at a loose end. What is he supposed to do now that his course is over? If only he had a home to go to but he doesn’t. If only he knew who he was, but he doesn’t know that either. Then Stephen gets a letter summoning him to a solicitor’s office and there he discovers that his full name is Stephen Lansbury and that he has inherited a place in Cornwall called Lansbury Hall.
With nothing else to do Stephen sets off for his new home not knowing what to expect or what is expected of him. His great uncle’s will suggests that he will have some role to play at the Hall but Stephen does not understand what that role could be. Even after he gets there it takes Stephen a while to discover that Lansbury Hall is hiding an incredible, wonderful secret, a secret he will have to keep and protect as best he can.
With a strong environmental message this novel is both powerful and fascinating. The author’s concern for the destruction of our environment is evident but it is so skillfully woven into the fabric of her extraordinary tale that the reader does not feel that he or she is being preached to. Carefully spun out and sprinkled with clues about what may lie in the future, listeners will find themselves unable to stop listening to the story once they have begun it. Through Stephen we discover that the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest is something that has been going on for a long time and that its destruction is a terrible loss for the whole world. We quickly warm to Stephen wanting him to find his place in the world and hoping that he can fulfill his dreams and his potential. Perhaps he will be able to do something that will really make a difference.
Charles Keating is a remarkable narrator who seems to be able to transform himself into each and every character. With great ease his goes from being a Cornish postmistress to a young man whose nervousness and feelings of uncertainty come out clearly in his ‘voice.’ Each transition is seamless and each character is completely convincing.
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