This novel is dripping with barely repressed sensuality. Melanie, aged fifteen, longs to be a woman, and also longs to be a child again; this much is clear through Carter's evocative prose. A surreal night time wander, swiftly followed by a family tragedy leads Melanie to find herself living in her Uncle's toyshop with her brother and sister and two unconventional cousins.
This is a novel about between places. Melanie is between childhood and adulthood, between happy and sad, between one family and another. As always, Carter uses vivid images that at once inspire and startle. Here, images synonymous with childhood clash with those of adulthood in a way that is disturbing and, also, realistic particularly with her allusions to the literature of childhood. This reaches its peak at the end, when Melanie loses her childhood teddy bear forever.
Though not as plot-driven as some of her other work, this novel abounds with Magical Realism, and at times the Carnivalesque too. Carter weaves these elements together in a way that is spellbinding and captures the imagination, evoking memories from when we, too, were in those in-between places. She comments on human relationships and the solidarity and comfort that can be gleaned in the most peculiar of situations.