The thing about Tanya Landman is that she makes you feel as though you are living in her stories. Her novels have wildly different settings but that truth is constant. And I’ve found it to be the case whether or not I have any prior knowledge of the setting – or, indeed, any interest in it. Lightning Strike is set in London in the 1880s which gives it a historical setting in which I have an interest. However, I had no knowledge of the events that Tanya uses in her book so I was starting at the same point, I suspect, as many of the younger readers who are the book’s likely audience.
If I were going to use cliches, I’d tell you that Eliza, the book’s narrator, is feisty. But that would be to simplify her personality. Like many teenagers she swings around between self-doubt, a passion for change and feelings of inadequacy. Eliza works in a match factory along with hundreds of others, mostly women and girls. They earn little and are exposed to the poison of phosphorus every day, knowing that as soon as they show any signs of its effect they will be sacked and left to die. Eliza longs to be able to improve the situation but is realistic enough to know that others hold all the power. But an encounter with some wealthy socialists proves to be the first in a series of small steps to change.
Lightning Strike is published by Oxford University Press in association with Barrington Stroke. It is one of its collection of Super-Readable Rollercoasters, books with a high interest level but written in an accessible style and printed using Barrington Stoke’s dyslexia-friendly font. As anyone who has read my blog before will know, I am an admirer of, and advocate for, the Edinburgh publisher’s work; I also appreciate the range of high-quality fiction produced by OUP. This new series, therefore, is something I am watching with great interest and so far I am impressed.
Tanya Landman always tells a good story and Lightning Strike is no different in that regard. I imagine that there were some conditions to be met in the writing of the book but that is not how it reads. There is energy in the writing, and Eliza and her sister Nell are both distinct and believable characters. They seem to come to life fully formed but with room to develop. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it.