The Truth and Lies of Ella Black – the forty day time-scale
This books seems to have caused fierce ‘love it/hate it’ feelings amongst readers. Was the dark side of Ella, who kills a bird within the first few pages, a step too far? Or is it something else? Do readers just find her selfish and unlikeable?
What a great title for the first chapter! ’40 days until she dies’.
Why 40? Why is she going to die?
40 days strikes a familiar chord, since Jesus did it first, most famously, when he was being tested by the devil in the wilderness…. did Ms Barr have this in mind as a parallel when she decided on the time scale? Is Ella being tested, too?
Ella Black has forty days to find answers about her life, and a lot happens to her in that time. She changes a great deal and is forced to act, react and act again. Because we know her time is limited, the tension is massive – we’re going to be counting down with her!
Reading this book as a mother, perhaps, I had a different aspect from readers in Ella’s peer group. I wanted to reach out and help a child who was going through raw pain. I thought Ella evolved in her own way, and I liked it wasn’t a happy-ever-after as I imagine one to be, but it satisfied Ella. I don’t know how someone the same age as Ella might think about this character; I’d love to hear your opinions.
Have you read this book? Did you see any significance in the number forty? Did you consider it as an important time-scale?
The Truth And Lies Of Ella Black is a dark, intriguing story that, with a seventeen-year-old protagonist, is suitable for both young and adult readers. The crossing out of Ella’s name in the title certainly piqued my interest before I had even read the first page.
The story covers a timespan of forty days in Ella’s life. At the start, she is an ordinary teenager enjoying a school holiday. An only child, she attends an all-girls school and enjoys art. This, however, is where ‘normal’ ends. There are two sides to Ella: the good girl tries to behave well, work hard and fit in with her schoolmates, but Bad Ella is always lurking in the background…
Bad Ella demands time and space. Bad Ella is strong, frightening and unpredictable; when she demands to be let out, Ella has to lock herself in her room, lest she escape.
The story takes another turn when Ella’s life brings forth a sudden, dramatic change. Rio de Janeiro is a place Ella has always had on her bucket list, and now she’s there. She’s thrilled, but would have preferred time to plan the trip—especially as she arrives still dressed in her school uniform.
It’s clear her parents have been hiding something from her, and, when she discovers the truth, Bad Ella takes over. Fleeing from her parents, Ella tries to piece together some clues about her parents’ deception, whilst coming to terms with having been lied to. Determined to remain hidden, Ella bravely takes to the streets of Rio.
I really enjoyed the Brazilian setting. Ella’s double threaded story, the unravelling of the truth about her past and her personal evolution, had several unexpected developments which kept the momentum of the story going well. I didn’t guess the ending, which was not what I expected, and I wasn’t disappointed.
I liked Ella; she’s brave, spontaneous and determined, and certainly had me rooting for her, especially when she was on the Rio streets. I could easily picture the neighbourhoods, from the tourist spots to the shanty towns, with possible dangers around every corner. I was particularly impressed by Ms Barr’s depiction of the younger people, who I found delightful; they jumped off the page into my imagination, and I really liked them.
The forty-day timeline over which this story was told parallels historic stories which also mark time by this length, and match Ella’s own journey to find answers. The first book I read by this author was The One Memory Of Flora Banks; if you enjoyed that, like me, then I think you’ll like this book too.
Ella Black seems to live the life most other seventeen-year-olds would kill for . . .
Until one day, telling her nothing, her parents whisk her off to Rio de Janeiro. Determined to find out why, Ella takes her chance and searches through their things.
And realises her life has been a lie.
Her mother and father aren’t hers at all. Unable to comprehend the truth, Ella runs away, to the one place they’ll never think to look – the favelas.
But there she learns a terrible secret – the truth about her real parents and their past. And the truth about a mother, desperate for a daughter taken from her seventeen years ago . . .
Emily Barr worked as a journalist in London but always hankered after a quiet room and a book to write. She went travelling for a year, which gave her an idea for a novel set in the world of backpackers in Asia. This became BACKPACK, an adult thriller which won the WH Smith New Talent Award, and she has since written eleven more adult novels published in the UK and around the world. THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS is her first novel for young adults. She lives in Cornwall with her partner and their children. Visit her website at http://www.emilybarr.com