Sarah Singleton's Century is a strong debut novel and beat off competition from Meg Rosoff's acclaimed novel, How I Live Now, and Julie Burchill's tale of schoolgirl lesbian love, Sugar Rush, to win the 2005 Booktrust teenage prize.
This Gothic tale is set entirely in the house and grounds of the Verga family, the house is called "Century". 12 year old Mercy and her sister younger sister Charity have never questioned their daily routine, living at night and sleeping during the day, and seeing their widowed father only rarely, whilst their house remains shrouded in perpetual Winter. But then one day, Mercy, wakes to find a snowdrop on her pillow. This sign of Spring is a subtle hint at the possibility that they could have a different future. Then a chance meeting with a mysterious man named Claudius who tells her she can see her mother again, sets Mercy questioning everything she has ever known - including the truth of her mother's death. Slowly and steadily Mercy traces her parents' story through the past, travelling back in time to see herself as a younger child, silently witnessing the dramatic events in which Claudius himself plays an enormous part. It's not until she has pieced together the truth that she and her family can begin to move on. But it's no easy task - her father opposes her, grief-stricken still over the loss of his wife. Twice Mercy finds herself locked away in a room in Century, as her father tries to maintain his control of the situation.
This is an excellent tale - intriguing and disconcerting by turns, and with some interesting twists. I confess, that initially I wondered if the Verga family were vampires - but they're not...
You might be interested in checking out Sarah Singleton's website.