I re-read this after 14 years. I loved it then, but loved it more this time. Which just goes to show that returning to a good book is usually the right thing to do.
The Star of Kazan reads like Eva Ibbotson’s love letter to Vienna. I knew it had all the loveliness you always get in an Ibbotson novel, but I’d forgotten both the romance and all that humour.
And I remember I thought it was less about Vienna than I’d expected. Now I see how much of the city there is in the story, even when the main character, Annika, is not there.
Set in Vienna before WWI, it is lovely, peaceful and sounds just perfect. Annika is a foundling, growing up with two servants and their three professor employers. She works hard, is friendly to everyone, and has two very good friends nearby.
That’s when her ‘real’ mother turns up and takes her away. Living in darkest North Germany, it is rather Jane Eyre-ish. There is an awful half-brother, a cousin, and a ‘gypsy’ boy with a gorgeous horse and a three-legged dog.
Once the necessary bad stuff has happened, this book will give you all that you need and had hoped for. Possibly more.
The Star of Kazan is my favourite of her books. So evocative and completely gripping too. There is also something unique about the ‘Ibbotson heroine’ – they all share a certain something… a strange naivety that hides an inner strength.