________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 7 . . . . November 21, 2008

cover Wild Talent: A Novel of the Supernatural.

Eileen Kernaghan.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown, 2008.
261 pp., pbk., $15.95.
ISBN 978-1-897235-40-9.

Subject Headings:
Occult fiction.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.

Review by Jennifer Draper.

*** /4


"Give me your money," this apparition said.

And Alexandria, who must have been no less terrified, answered in a steady voice, "I have only my train fare. Take that if you wish." And she reached into the pocket of her coat. I could see her hand trembling as she held out a shilling piece. He took the coin with a kind of grunt, and then turned to me.

"I have no money with me," I managed to say. It was the truth.

"Rings? Pocket-watch?"

Dumb with fear, I could only shake my head. And I watched in silent horror as he raised the knife. I cannot say what happened next. I have no clear memory of it, only that something shifted within me, my terror turning into a mindless and unmindful rage. The air all at once was filled with flying pebbles, pieces of brick and broken cobblestones, as though some giant hand had scooped them up and flung them in blind fury at our attacker.


Jeannie Guthrie is a young woman who has had a misfortunate life. Well-educated by a father determined that she become a scholar, Jeannie and her family fall on hard times when her father dies. She is forced to become a manual laborer and is constantly sexually harassed by her cousin, George. One day, George goes too far and, before Jeannie knows what is happening, a pitchfork flies across the barn and impales him. Convinced that she has killed him, she flees to London. There her luck changes, and she makes a friend, Alexandria, who is also on a journey for knowledge. Jeannie is also able to find employment with an eccentric woman who claims to have supernatural powers. Jeannie meets and falls in love with a young man of whom she feels unworthy. She is, after all, a murderess of low station, and he, the son of a baronet. Their romance of miscommunication and fumbling takes them through London and Paris, finally uniting them at the book's end with their expected marriage.

     Throughout the novel, Jeannie learns to use her psychic energy and to hide it at the same time. Wild Talent is a rambling tale of life that dabbles in many areas. The reader sees the world of the occult in late 19th century England and gets a glimpse into the literary world of Wilde and Yeats. The status and role of women are touched on as well as the life of artists and poets in general. In short, this period in England's history is just plain weird. It is a debauched world foreign to Jeannie, and she is led through it safely by her worldly friend, Alexandria, a suspected manic-depressive who is always restless for the next adventure.

     The novel is presented in diary format and told from Jeannie's perspective. Some of the plot is a bit hard to swallow, such as Jeannie's finding a safe haven and position so soon after arriving in London. The story winds through many different characters and plot threads and does not really culminate in a point. The only resolution is that Jeannie and her beau marry, and she is able to control her wild talent of moving objects with her mind. However, Wild Talent describes the setting and feeling of this time period very well. The background information about Jack the Ripper is not obviously superimposed on the plot, and the character development is excellent. The reader can see Jeannie's growth from a scared farm worker to a knowing, mature woman. Wild Talent is a unique book worth having in any collection despite its flaws.


Jennifer Draper is a Children's literature aficionado living in Oshawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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