Not the best image, and not really the cover I wanted. Image courtesy of Goodreads.
It’s the year 1914 and fourteen year old Blossom Culp’s life is about to change. Right now, she’s just a girl from the wrong side of the tracks living with her eccentric clairvoyant mother. Her father hasn’t been home in a couple years, which is just as well because he’s always drunk. Blossom’s mother regrets that Blossom has not been blessed with the “gift” of second sight. Until, it turns out, she has.
Blossom overhears that four boys in her class are going to play pranks on halloween night, pushing over the townspeople’s outhouses. Blossom decides to one-up them by dressing up as a ghost and pretending one of the outhouses is haunted. She scares the boys, including her former best friend Alexander Armsworth, who does have the gift of second sight (though he wishes he didn’t). The boys believe they were pranked by another classmate, Letty Shambaugh, and so the following day in school, one of the boys beats Letty to a pulp and nearly chokes her. The only one to come to her rescue is Blossom.
To show appreciation to Blossom for saving her daughter, Mrs. Shambaugh makes Letty, a prissy rich girl, invite Blossom to one of her gatherings with the other rich-girl friends. It’s at this gathering that Blossom has her first second sight vision, where she accurately predicts that Letty’s little brother is being run over by an electric auto belonging to Ms. Dabney, the town eccentric old lady.
All of a sudden, Blossom can’t control her visions and can’t stop having them. Mostly they include visions of a ghost boy, ice and a sound of groaning. Ms. Dabney, who’d run over little Newton Shambaugh, invited Blossom to her house, and Blossom brought along Alexander Armsworth – who was coming along only because Blossom threatened to out him as one of the boys pushing over privies on halloween night. Turns out Ms. Dabney had an ulterior motive for inviting those two – a ghost in her kitchen. Ms. Dabney, who doesn’t have the gift of second sight, can hear the ghost, but only Blossom and Alexander can see her, sitting at the table and crying and eventually hanging herself in the pantry. Alexander wusses out, but Blossom helps to tame the ghost, named Minerva, who was Ms. Dabney’s nanny when she was a little girl.
Upon her return home from Ms. Dabney’s Blossom’s mother reads her tea leaves.
“Two trips over water still in the future and one voyage already past, but interrupted by death. Two young folks, a boy and a young chit of a gal, you. No, you but not that kid from the house. Another kid. Dead now and tow-headed. His pore corpse trapped under a mountain of ice. A beautiful woman, now living of a high degree-who’s committed a wicked sin and crime against her own kid, the flesh of her flesh. Only you can bring her to justice.”
Blossom and Ms. Dabney become unlikely friends. And when a man claiming to speak to the dead comes to Bluff City, they both know he’s a scam-artist. And yet, Ms. Dabney falls for his con game. Blossom decides to get back at this man, and scares off little Sybil, who plays the ghost in his act and takes her place, where she lets the town know they’ve been duped. In the audience? Alexander’s brother-in-law and local news reporter, Lowell Seaforth.
Blossom’s teacher, Mrs. Spaulding, pulls her in for a conference about skipping school and claiming to have the second sight, which science can in no way back up. She has Lowell Seaforth in on the meeting, because Blossom is so hungry for attention, Mrs. Spaulding believes having a reporter there will give Blossom the attention she craves – in a bad way. Immediately after Blossom gives her account of her story, she is thrust out of her body and into another world – this one in the past.
She’s on the Titanic, which had sunk just twenty months earlier. She’s in a cabin room with a little boy, the same little boy she’s been having visions of. He’s sound asleep, though the ship has already struck the iceberg. In an adjoining room, the boys parents are bickering. The mom grabs as many of her jewels as she can and heads off to the lifeboats. The father sits for a moment, and changes into his wife’s clothes, obviously to pass as a woman and get a spot on a lifeboat. They leave without the boy. Blossom checks around and the boy is Julian Poindexter, son of Lady Beatrix Poindexter and Sir Clifford Poindexter. She tries to comfort the boy as he heads toward certain death, but she is a ghost and can offer nothing. Blossom realizes that Julian is sensitive to the spirit world and called her there to let his story of parental abandonment be known.
When Julian’s room is washed away, Blossom is lurched back into the real world in Ms. Spaulding’s office. Only now she’s ice cold and soaked in salt water. And she’s clutching a blanket labeled RMS Titanic. News of this journey are told in the local paper, and before you know it, Blossom is surrounded by newsmen from as far away at St. Louis interested in her story.
Blossom becomes famous, bringing a lot of attention to the little town of Bluff City. Suddenly, Blossom’s mom is more than a local curiosity, she is a woman who can charge a good amount of money for psychic readings. And she does, becoming somewhat money grubbing. Blossom doesn’t change though. Even when she receives a letter from Queen Mary, who’d heard the story of little Julian Poindexter and has fired Lady Poindexter from the Queen’s court.
Ms. Dabney, who is obsessed with all things English, gets wind of this and considers this letter a Royal invitation. So she takes Blossom and Alexander to London to visit the Queen. Of course, this is no easy feat, but Blossom and Alexander discover a wax tableau in Madame Tussaud’s of little Julian Poindexter as the ship Titanic is sinking. Blossom and Alexander make a fake advertisment, and the following day, Blossom adds herself into the tableau, posing as her own wax statue. This prank gets the Queen’s attention, and Blossom does end up getting to visit the Queen just before returning home, looking toward the future, Alexander by her side.
- I don’t remember loving this book so much as a kid. I really loved it on re-reading it now. I think it takes a more mature mind to appreciate Blossom’s world view that is both weary and idealistic, and to appreciate the awfulness of Lady Poindexter’s crime against her son.
- What are the things I love about this book? 1- the protagonist. 2-the time period. 3- Travel to London via a steam liner. 5- Psychic visions! 4-Ghosts!
- This book is deliciously old fashioned. The old-timey clothes (Blossom wears a tam o’shanter!) and Ms. Dabney’s Pope-Detroit Electric auto are to die for.
- Blossom can’t just admit she has a crush on Alexander Armsworth.
- This is the second in a four-part series, though I haven’t read any of the other three. In fact, I didn’t even know there were three others in the series until I began researching this. Will I look for them? Probably.
- Alexander’s mother throws a bon voyage party for Alexander, Blossom and Ms. Dabney before they set off for England. And she fails to invite Blossom’s mother. Though Blossom’s mother ends up coming anyway much to the horror of the social status-conscious Mrs. Armsworth. Blossom is initially embarrassed, but realizing that Lady Poindexter forsook her own flesh, Blossom will not do the same to her mother and proudly introduces her to high society. It turns out all right, everyone is quite taken with Blossom’s mother’s eccentricity and with the fact that she’ll agree to do free palm readings at the party.
- Toward the end, Blossom has terrifying visions of the upcoming WWI, including seeing really gruesome visions of young dying soldiers and bombs dropping from planes.
- The best part of the book is how Blossom reacts to meeting the Queen. Let’s just say the decorum lessons didn’t quite stick…..