Yaxley's Cat

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Author: Robert Westall

Age Range: Young Teens

Period: Contemporary

Genres:  FamilySpooky


Rose, mother of Timothy (13) and Jane, is holidaying with her children on the Nortolk coast, partly to get away from her too-efficient businessman husband. They find a disused cottage and rent it for the week, braving the more and more overt opposition of the villagers, who disliked the previous occupant Sepp Yaxley, a “Cunning Man” responsible for curing warts, placing crop blights, and procuring abortions. Eventually Yaxley's elderly sister is attacked and leaves the village, and the family are cornered in the house, saved only at the last minute by the police.


As in The Wind Eye, the unwritten prologue to the book is the strain on family unity caused by the difference in approach of an efficient businessman father and a rather more dreamy mother. The issue is never really resolved, although things are couched throughout as the wife's triumphing over the husband. The tension is well-paced on the whole, one's ideas swaying between a wholly natural, albeit unusual, set of events and some sort of supernatural influence.I would level criticism at the changing characters of the two children who, while streetwise from the start, seem to acquire a hardened maturity in the course of a few days, especially Timothy who calmly produces an air pistol given him by his father with which he shoots at several people. In the context of the book his mother regrets his attitude, putting it down to TV and films, but I feel it's over the top even for that.

Tuesday 1st January 2002