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Montacute House by Lucy Jago

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There’s a many layered mystery to be solved at the heart of this richly evoked historical novel which captures the fear and superstition of Elizabethan society. Young Cecily, or Cess as she is universally called, lives in great poverty on the margins of society. But, when the badly disfigured body of a boy is found locally and then her best friend William goes missing, Cess finds herself drawn into a central role – and a very dangerous one. Witchcraft, superstition and the overwhelming social prejudices of the day are all vividly brought to life here.


Montacute House by Lucy Jago

Cess works caring for the chickens at Montacute House but on her thirteenth birthday everything changes. She finds a precious locket hidden in the chicken coop and is convinced someone has placed it there for her to find. But the day is overshadowed by fear as a boy's body is found by the river, and then when William disappears, Cess is accused by the villagers of bewitching her best friend. Cess is determined to find William and prove the villagers wrong, but is soon embroiled in a plot that threatens her world and forces Cess to draw on powers she never knew she possessed, powers that will place her life in danger if they are discovered by the villagers. Witchcraft, politics and religious ambition combine in this gripping and wonderfully realised novel set in the Somerset of the 1500s.


'This impressive historical debut is a beguiling mix of politics and witchcraft'
The Bookseller

About the Author

Lucy Jago

Lucy Jago lives in London with her family. Montacute House, published by Bloomsbury in May 2010, is her first book for young readers. She has previously written two non-fiction titles for adults.

The setting of the novel is real: a beautiful village in Somerset.

(Author photo copyright: Adrian Downie)

Lucy Jago’s Q&A

1. What are your 5 favourite books, and why? (not necessarily children’s books)
Hard to narrow it down to five but here are some of my favourite books:
‘The Rings of Saturn’ by W. G. Sebald because he connects places with history in the most extraordinary, enlightening and moving way.
‘holes’, by Louis Sachar. A book for any age of reader. Dialogue that grips you by the throat and a narrative of great inventiveness and surprise.
Rose Tremain, ‘Restoration’. For me, Rose Tremain’s writing is like poetry, I want to savour every word. want to try and learn her books by heart, like songs. I love Tremain’s boldness in how she uses her imagination and allows us to know others’ experiences.
E. Annie Proulx, ‘The Shipping News’. I like a book to transport me somewhere else. Proulx’s writing does that for me so forcefully I can feel the salt on my lips.
‘The BFG’ by Roald Dahl. Hard to chose which of Dahl’s books I love the most. They make me laugh, they’re tough and their female heroines are wonderful.

2. Who are your 5 favourite authors/illustrators, and why? (not necessarily children’s authors/illustrators)
Michael Morpurgo, never underestimates the emotional range and depth of his readers, only problem is his books make me cry every time.
Phillip Pullman, never underestimates the intellectual capacities of his readers and is a brilliant story-teller.
Quentin Blake, his illustrations compliment humour.
Helen Oxenbury, I especially love ‘The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.’ Her illustrations are both beautiful and funny.

3. What was your favourite book when you were a child?
The Adventure series by Enid Blyton, the Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene and anything by Alan Garner, especially the Weirdstone of Brisingamen.

4. Who is your favourite hero in a book?
Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen because she gets to wear a bonnet and has great lines.

5. Who is your favourite villain in a book?
At the moment, Mrs Trenchbull the Headmistress in Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’ but I do love Snape too from Harry Potter, probably because Alan Rickman is so gorgeously evil in the role.

6. If you could be a character from a book who would you be?
Anyone at Hogwarts (J. K. Rowling) because I want to fly on a broomstick or Lucy Pevensie in the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.

7. If you could recommend just one book for everyone to read what would it be?
That is an almost impossible question because I tend to recommend books to people depending on my understanding of the personality of the book and the character of the reader. If pushed, today, I might say ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ by Mark Haddon

8. What book do you wish you had written?
Far too numerous to mention but any of the books already mentioned and many besides.

9. Who or what was your biggest influence in deciding to become a writer?
George Szirtes, my English teacher, my mother who is a great reader and Jurgen Wolff who helped me work out how.

10. What inspired you to write your latest book (include title here for ease of reference)?
‘Montacute House’ was inspired by my own family life and my love for the village of Montacute and the people I knew/know there.

11. What's the best thing you've ever written?
Probably some poems that I’ve never tried to publish

12. When did you start writing?
I was about 8.

13. If someone wanted to be a writer what would be your number one tip for them?
Believe in yourself. There is a lovely quote (can’t remember who from);
Use what talents you have.
The woods would be silent
If no bird sang
Except those that sang the best.

14. Is there any particular routine involved in your writing process (favourite pen, lucky charm, special jumper)?
Ear plugs. I have three children, two of whom are at home during the day and love dancing to ABBA very loud. No other routine except I do it whether I feel inspired or not and don’t notice much difference in my writing either way. I do like to have something visual that quickly takes me to the time I am writing about - a photo or painting. Some people use music but for me it has to be visual.

15. Do you have any abandoned stories in you ‘bottom drawer’ that you would like to revisit?
No, but I do have ideas in my ‘ideas drawer’ waiting to be worked on.

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd May 2011


Lucy Jago

More books by Lucy Jago
Author 'Like for Like'


Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


288 pages


11+ readers

Crime & mystery fiction (Children's / Teenage)



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