The House of the Pelican by Elisabeth Kyle was published in 1954 and is illustrated by Peggy Fortnum who is best known for illustrating Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear books.
The setting is Edinburgh during the Festival where Mr Foley has gone to play the trombone in an orchestra. His wife is dead and he has a son and daughter to bring up, it’s a difficult life for all of them as he has to travel around for work so they don’t have a permanent home. Pat isn’t a problem as he’s old enough to look after himself, but Janet is younger and that means it’s difficult for them to get accommodation, nobody wants to end up having to take responsibility for her while her father is at work. But Chris is a young girl who helps her mother run their boarding house in a poorer part of the city, and she takes their booking.
Janet is intrigued by Effie the fishwife who visits the boarding house every week carrying a huge basket of fish to sell. When Janet follows Effie she gets completely lost in the many wee lanes and wynds at the back of the Royal Mile and ends up in a condemned building where the elderly inhabitant shows her a golden box, but Janet lives in a bit of a dream world and tells so many ‘stories’ that nobody believes her. They don’t believe that the House of the Pelican exists.
This was my first Elisabeth Kyle read but I definitely want to read more of her books as I really enjoyed this one which I’m sure captured the atmosphere of the early days of the Edinburgh Festival.