Review of ‘Roof Toppers’ by Katherine Rundell



As deliciously dreamy as walking into a parisien patisserie.

Stick on the Amélie movie soundtrack, grab yourself a baguette and a ‘café’ and settle in, as you won’t want to put the book down!

On her first birthday, Sophie is found floating “in a cello case  in the middle of the English Channel”  wrapped “in the musical score of a Beethoven symphony”, with her mother presumed drowned. Charles, the tall, bookish kindly eccentric, looks after her in an unconventional, yet wonderful manner (pork pies eaten off a bible, allowing Sophie to write poetry on the walls oh la, la!) …until the National Childcare Agency decide that he is an unsuitable guardian. In a fit of rage Sophie beats the cello case (her life raft) with a poker, and discovers a plaque beneath the lining indicating that the cello is from Paris. Driven by the belief that her mother may still be in Paris, Sophie and Charles run away there.”Never ignore a possible” is Charles’ mantra.

The action move to Paris. Before long Sophie meets Matteo. She is drawn to the roof tops for a reason she cannot fathom; he lives on the rooftops of Paris in a world apart form the pavement-people. Charles tries to find her mother along official channels, while Sophie learns more about Matteo’s existence among the chimney pots and roof tiles. Gradually she discovers more information about her mother, and believes that she hears her cello playing in the distance. Determined to find her mother, she sets off on a risky quest to locate her.

Does she succeed? Ah, you’ll have to read it yourself!

The prose sweeps you along at a cracking pace, and instantly endears you to Sophie and Charles. Katherine Rundell’s style is as light and fluffy as a meringue, and wickedly moreish. There’s plenty to make you laugh, and squirm too. It is delightfully old-fashioned in its bright and breezy dialogue; yet fresh and unique. So many of her phrases were fresh and unusual, often very poetic and always charming. It’s a touching tale without being overly sentimental. There is a stoicism and resilience to the characters in the adversity they face; and their quirky personalities demand a happy ending from the onset.

This is a rich, heart warming story that would suit readers from 9 upwards, and is a perfect place to escape to over the summer.

The downsides for me would be that at times I felt I wanted more: it felt like an amuse-bouche. Towards the end of the book I felt Charles had been neglected, and I felt sad for him. But mostly I was just fed up when I got to the end because I’d enjoyed the deliciousness of it all so much.

More like this please!

Pippa Wilson

Published by Faber and Faber, £6.99 paperback

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