One of the books I’ve read in the last six months, and possibly one of my absolute favorites, is Jonathan Auxier’s historical fantasy novel, titled, Sweep The Story of a Girl and Her Monster. In this book, Nan the central protagonist, is a young girl who’s a chimney sweeper and through her the reader is given a rich description of the treatment and dangerous working conditions children faced who worked in these jobs, in London in the late 1800’s. The conditions were dangerous due to accidents, but as mentioned a few times in the novel, there were also long-term health complications that sweepers faced from regularly inhaling soot from the fireplaces.
The introduction of Charlie, who is the monster, only adds to the rich detail and beautifully layered way this story is told. Kind, protective, and gentle Charlie is given a child-like quality of seeing the world that only makes the reader want to protect him. However, it’s Charlie’s devotion to Nan, and Nan’s concern for him, that forces a reader to thumb through the pages quickly to find out how the story ends.
Why do I love this story? Historically informative, while interweaving elements of fantasy into the story, I was enthralled by this book. Add into this, the closely-knit camaraderie amongst most of the sweepers (with the exception of one), and the flashbacks to the Sweep who raised Nan in the early years of her life with kindness and devotion despite his poverty, and I could not put this book down. As well, there was also the call for activism by youth for social change, that was inspiring.
How could I not like this book?
I know I didn’t say a lot about the plot. That was intentional, for fear of giving away too much in case some people want to read it. I love complicated, rich stories that are told in multiple layers. This book was absolutely one of my favorites for this reason. It’s been almost six months since I read it, and the fact that I still think about it, says something.