This novel about a Victorian theatre troupe on its uppers — the Pringle family, with its Shakespeare-loving patriarch, warm-hearted offspring, and some redoubtable women — is a delightful kind of old-fashioned storytelling... The story inspires sympathy for the hard-working and the kind, and disdain for spoilt children and greedy rogues. It builds satisfyingly to an ending in which the good find friends and salvation and the bad get their just deserts. It would be a treat to read aloud at bedtime, especially for anyone able to do actorly declamations, and, with its edge-of-your-seat pace, it deserves applause.
French is a writer of tremendous charm, her world at once comedic and believable... French controls her disparate elements effortlessly and every character, charming or dastardly, is drawn with care and love, including the ghastly Poskett children, Hypatia and Affogato, and Vincent von Greazle, who is ‘no longer able to play the Noble Hero unless the lights were exceptionally dim’. Familial love underpins everything. Children of nine and upwards will want to jump aboard.