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Sophie is shipwrecked in the English Channel on her 1st birthday, with her mother presumed dead, but she’s lucky enough to be found by scholar Charles. He raises her as his ward and they have a happy, if seriously unconventional, existence until the authorities intervene on her 12th birthday. With the orphanage beckoning, Sophie and Charles run away to France in the hope that her mother may be alive after all.

Rundell’s characterisation – which I thought was the weak point of her debut The Girl Savage – is much stronger here. Sophie and Charles are both excellent, and the relationship between them is very touching – Charles has to be right up there with Atticus Finch as one of my very favourite fictional father figures. The children Sophie meets in Paris are very well-portrayed as well. The writing style which showed promise in that first book is more developed now and is stunning at times – I read this a few months ago (but have only just got round to reviewing it), before it was longl...

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