The House of Serendipity: Sequins and Secrets

Lucy Ivison (Usborne)

Sequins and Secrets

Review by Phoebe
House of Serendipity was a very fun read. I loved everything about it: I loved the dual point of view, I loved the plot, I loved the characters, I loved the suspense going into the third act, I loved them all.

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that it doesn’t focus on a forced love interest, this book is based around an amazingly written female friendship, which is done so well and carefully that the betrayal at the end of the book is all the more devastating. This book also has a subtle message of feminism, this may be just down to the fact that it is a very female dominated book, however I like to believe that the author set out with this feminist intention.

Every character has their own personalities that still make sense within the historical context of the story. For example, how Myrtle is much more of a lady than Sylvia is despite the fact that Sylvia had been the one brought up with money and as a lady, when Myrtle was from a working class background, which is a little more severe than nowadays back in the 20s. I also love Agapantha’s character, how she loved to see how far she could bend the rules and see what she can get away with. Like Sylvia, she appears to hate the life of being an aristocrat and we can begin to see why she and Sylvia are such good friends. The suspense that built up to the third act was incredible, you wouldn’t think that a children’s book would be able to build such high stakes but it did and created a rollercoaster of emotions.

One of my favourite things about this book was the fashion illustrations throughout. They were very detailed and from the perspective of the characters, they still added something to the book without being placed here and there as if to make the book more fun. They definitely made it more interactive and interesting but they didn’t seem pointless and they helped me visualise the dresses that Sylvia and Myrtle created together.

Though this book is a children’s book, it has a very child-like cover, perhaps people may think that the illustrations are more for the benefit of children and the storyline isn’t one that perhaps a grown adult would usually read. I believe that this book can be enjoyed by not just children but even young adults, or new adults, for children can enjoy a book for what it is at surface level, book young adults and teens can enjoy this book for its overall message of friendship and feminism and take away lessons from this book that you wouldn’t usually expect from a children’s author. There are layers to it and for the right people, it can be enjoyed at all ages.

Overall, this was a very fun read for me and I cannot wait for the sequel that is coming out this year. 

Review by Frances
I think that The House of Serendipity is a very well written book, and I enjoyed it very much. This is for a number of reasons.

Chiefly, I believe that it is an excellent book for 9 to12 year olds in search of an adventurous and interesting read. The two narrators provide a view of the story from all angles. It allows young people, who have often been told that they should avoid being interested in fashion for fear of being perceived as ‘too girly’, to explore their interest in a refreshing and vibrant way.

The decadent and modern aesthetic of the 1920s, a time of change all across the world after the First World War, provides an excellent canvas for a novel, as it allows for modern concepts to be explored, but it does not fully let go of the old and antiquated concepts such as the idea of debutantes that form and support the book’s plot.

At the end, Agapantha running away provides a shocking and impactful climax, and I believe that she is one of the most interesting characters. Her wish to escape a life of marriage and formal dances for one of adventure and discovery is nothing new, but used in this story it helps to put into perspective how many women in the 1920s felt about the culture of courtship, and ‘being left on the shelf’ if one did not marry swiftly.

I would recommend this to people who want a light-hearted and fun book that explores relevant topics without taking away from the whimsical nature of its influences and setting. 

Review by Audrey
This book is about a maid and a Lady from the olden days who become friends and design outfits together. They do lots of scandalous things and eventually go to Hollywood to design and create outfits for films. This book was very exciting, unexpected and compelling. My favourite characters were Myrtle and Sylvia (the main characters) because they worked so well together and they were both so confident and creative. I loved how the point of view switched between Myrtle’s and Sylvia’s as it gave you a taste of what both of them are feeling and going through. One of my favourite parts is how the outfits they design are illustrated in the book and the way they describe when the outfits are put on. I really recommend this book to every child who can read! I cannot wait for the second book in this series to come out! I will certainly buy it. 

Review by Morvern
This book was WONDERFUL. Each chapter is told either by Myrtle (the maid) or Sylvia (the lady). It all starts of when Delphine (Sylvia’s older sister) is getting ready for her debutante ball. Her dress makes her look like a giant bowl of pea green soup. Myrtle being a dressmaker beforehand starts to see how to adapt the dress to a beautiful ball gown. A friendship is formed between Sylvia and Myrtle together the unexpected happens. It is a really good book. My favourite character is Sylvia because she sounds like me chatty, a little bit silly and creative. It is not one of those end happily stories and I think that's good because you can never live a perfect life. I learnt don’t always jump to conclusions if you don’t have the full facts. I would recommend this as it has valuable life lesson and it is really enjoyable. My overall opinion is that it is AWESOME. 

Review by Jiya
‘The House of Serendipity’ is a great book written by Lucy Ivison which contains a series of interesting events that happen between two young women who love to dressmake. The book itself is based in the 1920s when women didn’t wear trousers in the UK and maids were still very common in rich houses and castles.

The character I found most interesting in the whole book was probably a maid named Myrtle who is also one of the main characters in the book. She is the most interesting character for me because even though she is a maid she dresses ever so nicely and has an amazing sense of style and fashion. Not to mention she was excellent at dressmaking.

As a matter of fact, I learnt quite a lot from the book but one of the things I found out was that back in the day, maids weren’t even allowed to make eye-contact with the royals. Also, did you know the currency of the UK a century ago was very different. £1 in the 1920s was worth about £42.49 which means £10 would be worth around £420!

The plot of this story was very interesting because the two women, one a Lady and the other her maid, had to keep it a secret that they have been dressmaking considering they aren’t even supposed to talk to each other.

The plot was however very exciting, and I think there was a little turn of events when their plan is partly ruined because someone superior almost finds out that they have been secretly dressmaking and encouraging a princess to escape to the Amazon rainforest.

I would like to say I have really enjoyed reading this book and I recommend it to everyone, and people interested in reading adventurous stories.

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