December 1941. World War II is raging. Emmaline has been evacuated away from the bombs to Briar Hill Hospital in Shropshire. When she gets there, she discovers a secret. It’s not to be shared with anyone, even her only friend. This is Emmaline’s secret: there are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill.
This is a tale of family love, guilt and a passion for life. The story is told from Emmaline’s viewpoint and beautifully illustrated by Levi Pinfold. The reader may want to spend time immersed in this story. This is not a pacy page turning tale but a slow thoughtful read . There are many multi-faceted characters from the bed ridden Anna who takes Emmaline under her wing, the seemingly severe Sister Constance and the one armed farm hand Thomas. Emmaline however is the driving force in this story. We hear snatches of conversation from the nuns and the other children which give the reader clues as to the events leading up to her quarantine in the hospital along with the other tuberculosis patients. However, it is not until the very end of the story after her many attempts to save a winged horse she finds in the gardens that we learn her backstory. The majority of the plot is taken up with her attempts throughout to prove that the wing horses exist and how this affects her relationships with the other children and adults in the hospital. The atmospheric illustrations by Levi Pinfold provide the occasional break in the text and a welcome pause from the intensity of the plot. The lyrical language and immediacy of the first person narrative create an emotional and poetic feel to this historical novel. A challenging read for the thoughtful reader, it will tug at your heart strings and provide an insight to the less well known aspects of this period in history.