The Tulip touch ISBN: 9780140378085
- Hamish Hamilton, 1996
- Puffin, 1997 (ISBN: 9780140378085)
When Natalie meets Tulip she is only eight years old and desperate for friends. Her parents have just taken over The Palace, a country hotel, and Natalie is lonely. Tulip gradually takes over her life, and though at some level Natalie is aware this is happening, she seems powerless to prevent it. Tulip is plausible, so plausible that Natalie's busy parents don't see what is happening, though her father is certainly aware of her lies. The stories always have 'the Tulip touch' - a twist that makes them believable. Tulip is fizzy and exciting and life with her around is lit up for the quiet Natalie. Tulip's home life is violent and abusive - even sexually abusive, and their increasingly violent games prove hypnotic to Natalie. The novel covers four or five years, and as the girls move on to secondary school, they are outcasts from their schoolmates, Tulip always in trouble, and Natalie 'holding the coat'. Her parents are kind to Tulip and invite her to spend Christmases with them at The Palace, the only time Tulip is truly happy. But when Natalie comes to a sudden realisation of just how hardened Tulip has become (after she begins setting serious fires), she breaks away. Tulip cannot believe this is happening, that Natalie really means it. But when she finally gets the message, she plans horrific revenge, and it is The Palace that suffers. Is Tulip evil, or is she a product of her terrible home? We will never know, but the pros and cons are thoughtfully weighed in this extraordinary novel. Natalie regrets the 'incandescent days' and feels guilt at her part in Tulip's downfall, but 'there can be colour in a million ways. I know I'll find it on my own'.