People Might Hear You by Robin Klein
I became obsessed with this novel when I first discovered it as a young teen and was shocked to see it was no longer in publication! At the risk of ruining some nostalgia from childhood I sought out a second hand copy to see if it lived up to my memories now that I am an adult.
After her guardian aunt marries the forbidding Mr Tyrell, twelve-year-old Frances is introduced to the mysterious temple and its strange fanatical beliefs. Mr Tyrell makes it impossible for his family to have contact with the outside world and Frances’ new stepsisters keep imploring her to remain quiet at all times otherwise ‘people might hear you’.
First Impressions: Although I have always remembered the ending, I was amazed at how much of the story I remember. I’m not just talking general plot either but many specific incidents and descriptions such as mandatory clothing and schooling. The only part I did not recall for some reason was the brief romantic storyline. From the first page I was also amazed at how old fashioned the writing sounded and how challenging some of the vocabulary is compared to most of the current YA selections I come across. Did I really not notice this as a teenager? Then again, it is 30 years old.
Highlights: I may be biased, but there are no lowlights in this novel! The isolated and odd lifestyle forced upon Frances and her imprisonment in Mr Tyrell’s house remain as absorbing as I remember. Robin Klein is also brilliant at capturing Frances’ childish innocence when faced with the different restrictions and rules placed on her life. If the internet existed when I first read this novel I’m sure I would have spent much time online reading news stories about The Family, the cult that inspired this book. I just thought it all came from Klein’s imagination!
If I was an editor: I would insist that this book be republished and stocked in all school libraries! I hate the idea of other children missing out on this fascinating novel. Obviously the cover art needs a rethink…
Overall: I can see how this story completely captivated me twenty years ago. Despite downsizing to be a Kindle-only reader I will be holding on to my tattered old copy in case in the future all copies disappear through natural attrition and I no longer have the option to read it again.
People Might Hear You: 5 stars