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City of CannibalsReview - City of Cannibals
by Ricki Thompson
Front Street, 2010
Review by Amy Ridley
Sep 30th 2010 (Volume 14, Issue 39)

Dell, sixteen, lives high above the city that her father refers to as “the city of cannibals” and spends her days playing with her puppet Bartholomew. She also spends a fair amount of time dreaming of the teenage boy who drops a bag of items near her mother’s grave for her family once a month. She has nicknamed the boy Brown Boy as she doesn’t know his real name because her father will not let her show herself to him let alone talk to him. The bag contained items such as raisins, linens and Dell’s favorite, lemons. Dell’s mother has died leaving her with just her father, brother and aunt. It is 1536 England and her family lives in a cave on the hill and the conditions are becoming more difficult for Dell. She realizes that her father’s unjustified anger towards her is becoming more violent every day and she will need to leave her family in order to survive. She makes the decision to go to the city below and fend for herself.

Once she arrives in the city she realizes how alone she is and she is determined to find the Brown Boy that she dreams about. She quickly makes a friend in Margery who gives her somewhere to sleep. She meets the Brown Boy shortly after arriving and she has to deal with the fact that even though she has strong feelings for him, her feelings cannot be reciprocated since he is in training to be a monk. There is a strong connection between Dell and the Brown Boy whose name is Ronaldo. He knew her mother when she was a lady-in waiting to Catherine of Aragon. Her mother was trampled by a horse when Dell was young. He is able to tell Dell things about her life that her father and aunt had kept from her. She begins to feel a connection to her mother that she never felt while living up on the mountain. She saw the risks that her mother took in order to follow love. She also has a better understanding of why her father showed so much anger towards her.

The author’s descriptions of the city make the reader feel like they are right on the streets with Dell searching for answers. These were not prosperous times for England with Henry VIII ruling. The poverty was overwhelming and Thompson’s graphic descriptions enable the reader to smell the filth and death that engulfed the city. The fear that the citizens felt at all times jumps off the page as Dell scurries around this strange and dangerous city looking for ways to help her new friends escape the religious persecution that awaits them. Dell soon realizes that she may have been better off on the mountain with her distraught father than in the city with all of the underhandedness that is around every corner.

Dell begins the book feeling like her only family is Bartholomew. Once she decides to take a chance and make her own choices, she finds a family of her own. She discovers that she has a lot in common with the mother she never really knew.

This book is appropriate for ages thirteen and up. There are several crude references that was typical for the time and adds authenticity to the story.

 

© 2010 Amy Ridley

 

 

Amy Ridley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University


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