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Fin and the Memory Curse

Authored by Helenka Stachera
Published by Penguin Random House Children's UK

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It is London, 1866, and Fin, an 11-year-old foundling, lives in a cramped attic in Hackney Marsh with two other foundlings, a Jack Russell and the woman who took them in as babies. Ma Stump is a tough woman – a heavy drinker and harsh with her punishments. Food is scarce and to earn her keep, Fin works as a leecher. But Fin carries a memory of her mother deep within her heart, ‘A remembered face, the feeling of having once been loved…’ Fin’s memory is extraordinary. A chance encounter between Ma and a strange gentleman at the Tripe and Eel pub sets off this supernatural adventure. Fresh leeches collected by a human hand are to be delivered to Mr Canary, an apothecary and Fin is sent to deliver them. A lady arrives to see Mr Canary and collect the leeches. As Fin hands them over, Lady Worth notices Fin has six digits on her right hand, and Fin’s life changes forever. She discovers she is a member of the Kaminski family, a rich Polish family and Lady Worth is her mother’s sister.

Fin leaves the cramped attic and all she knows with Small to begin a new life in Castle Kaminski. Here she meets, Eyrk, her second cousin, an orphan, visiting England from Poland. It is while the children are exploring the Castle that Eyrk tells Fin of the curse which has haunted the family for hundreds of years. Countess Kaminski, feeds on the memories of the family’s children. She is a strzyga: a demon. Only Fin, the girl whose head is on fire can stop The Countess, break the curse and save the family and future generations.

Fin is an immensely likeable character; she is feisty and brave, but also insecure and vulnerable. At her side is Small, her mother’s dependable dog. He has a sixth sense and Fin trusts his judgement completely. Eyrik is loyal and solid. Together, they make a plucky team in this story about good versus evil.

Helenka Stachera does not shy away from darker elements and at times this adventure is unsettling and frightening, making this novel more suited to upper KS2 readers. But sinister episodes are balanced with scenes of fun and moments of real tenderness. The tension in Fin and the Memory Curse builds towards a thrilling climax and satisfying ending and I found it hard to put this book down. The novel deals with themes of family, belonging, loyalty and bravery. It would make a great read-aloud book for an upper KS2 class and for individual readers who enjoy a great adventure and feeling a little bit scared.