Set in late 19th century England, ‘Forever Shales’ is a book for young adults following the life of a border collie named Shales and the family he lives with.
Told from Shales’ viewpoint, this lovely historical novel really is ‘Black Beauty’ for dog lovers. I particularly enjoyed the early chapters with our lead canine working out just what was expected of him by the humans, and attempting to keep his exuberant puppy temperament in check. There was a very sweet episode with a fan needing attacking that made me smile.
Berkeley’s descriptions of both landscapes and architecture are very good, and she manages to capture the feel of 19th century England in her writing. The author is obviously very knowledgeable about this period of history, and this shows in the effortless way that the day to day life of the dog and his family is conveyed.
Although Shales’ adventures are fictional, there is a large element of the writer’s family history in this tale. Very cleverly, Berkeley has researched her own ancestors and uses these genuine people from the era in her story, adding fictional padding and characters where necessary.
I loved the artwork in the book, particularly the beautifully drawn maps, and the list of characters at the beginning was very helpful – there really are a lot of them!
Whilst very well-written and extremely enjoyable, I can’t help but worry that the slightly old-fashioned feel to the story, and subtle cover, will mean this is a book bought for teenagers by the adults that love it rather than by the children themselves. I hope I’m wrong in this theory, and that plenty of young people give ‘Forever Shales’ a chance and allow themselves the opportunity to enjoy this delightful, very absorbing tale.
4 and a half stars