Punch by Barbara Henderson Ages 8+

Punch is a fantastic example of tense, masterful storytelling, with wonderfully engaging characters that had me totally captivated right from the start.

The story begins in 1889 in Inverness when 12 year old Phineas is abruptly woken by ‘Uncle Ewan’ who has forgotten to include the sausages in an order from his butcher’s shop.   To prevent an unhappy customer Phin is send on a mission to retrieve the missing part of the order from the shop in the market before delivering it to the customer.

However, Phin finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as the night takes a shocking and unexpected twist and he is accused of a dreadful crime. With no other feasible options open to him, he decides to run.

After a startling encounter with an escaped prisoner, he and Phin form an unlikely alliance and when they meet a family of travelling entertainers Phin’s life really begins to change.  He suddenly finds himself immersed in a world of performance, puppetry, dance, fiddles, dancing bears and royalty as the group begin to find success.

However, the fact that Phin and his companion are still on the run and are always looking over their shoulder never escapes them and Phin is tormented by memories of his previous life which slowly come to light.  The relationships that build between the characters is very touching, and there is a real theme of kindness, understanding and empathy throughout.

I love a bit of historical fiction, especially when it is set close to home.   It is clear throughout that Barbara Henderson really knows her stuff and this attention to detail makes it an even more exhilarating read.

Punch is jammed packed full of drama, intrigue and tension.  It is a cracking piece of storytelling, which vividly brings late nineteenth century Scotland to life with wonderfully descriptive settings and characters you embrace and believe in.  I absolutely loved it and would recommend to readers young and old.

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