This is a brilliant book, beautifully written. It’s right up there with Alice in Wonderland. Witty, perceptive and spectacularly imaginative, it is the story of how Lucy Nightingale gave Lisa Gherardini her smile back. In it, the real and the unreal, the impossible and the possible, all take place at the same time. If that doesn’t unclog your perception lattices, nothing will.
Anyone who has read my review of Ms Lodge’s first book about Lucy and Wilbur – The Crystal Navigator – will know that I am a fan of her work for a bunch of very good reasons. Mona Lisa’s Ghost brings us another thrilling set of adventures had by Lucy and Wilbur, helped along by the brilliance and inventiveness of her genius friend, Sam Winter. Sam and Lucy have founded SLARP – “Sam and Lucy’s Anomalies Research Project – to investigate and explain odd or out of the ordinary happenings called anomalies.” You can deduce from this that Lucy and Sam are “anomalologists”.
Sam too has a canine sidekick: his sheep dog, Doppler. Their relationship blossomed when Sam learned to speak Doppler’s language, after which Doppler “warned him about the approach of strangers, reminded him when it was time to go in for dinner, and entertained him with stories of his advice to pet owners in online chat rooms.”
Sam’s “molecular osmosis” theory proposes that obsolete inventions still teem with genius-laden molecules that will wriggle from the invention into the brain of any person who holds them long enough. Sam is a boffin (like Q in the James Bond stories) who invents essential devices to get field agent Lucy out of extraordinary scrapes while she takes on the daunting task of tackling whatever anomaly they are currently investigating.
Along the way, she discovers she can still rely on the help of a Wise One named Wilbur, who hails from the planet Wilwahren (= seeks to safeguard). Wise Ones are magical beings whose only job is listening for the wishes of children in trouble. Wilbur is her lifelong friend who retains the shape of a dignified corgi to challenge her assumptions, given that her ‘perception lattices’ are still clogged.
Tempting though it is, I won’t go into any more detail, because Ms Lodge tells the story so much more brilliantly than I ever could. I just want to give you enough of a flavour of the author’s genius as an Art historian, a perceptive observer of humanity and a brilliantly inventive writer to make you want to read this book for yourself. If you ever suspended your disbelief in a good cause while reading Alice in Wonderland, then Mona Lisa’s Ghost will challenge, delight and intrigue you in equal measure. Bright children will love it. They will learn a lot while opening their minds to the infinite possibilities contained within our standard definition of ‘reality’. With any luck, they will learn “how to see past the surface of the earthly world to the reality of the spiritual world.”
I only hope there are enough bright adults out there to point them in its direction.