To the casual observer, Alfie Monk looks like an average 11-year-old boy. But Alfie can remember the last Viking invasion of England. He was there. As was his mum, Hilda, and cat, Biffa. A thousand years later and they’re still alive. Ageless, with a millennium of history and wisdom between them.
Alfie tells us that living forever is not all it’s cracked up to be, and their enthralling story is one of solitude, persecution, and longing for the gift of growing old. Neverdead. The name was whispered throughout the early years of the second millennium. A person could become part of this ageless tribe, by the bodily absorption of the amber liquid contained within a Life-Pearl.
Alfie is eleven when this happens to him. The smell of sealskin and ships tar, and the guttural tones of Old Norse are the accompaniments to his life. By the time the reader joins him and his mum in the 21st century, they are adapting to a digital world, technology that will come to play a part in their inevitable unmasking.
The endless centuries have brought great loneliness and sorrow. As Alfie points out, ‘…it is simply not possible to get no older and expect nobody to notice.’ Gossip, suspicion and fear. ‘It was always the way…and it was always hard.’ There is however, a way out.
One remaining Life-Pearl is in their possession. If used, it will restore the ageing process. But Alfie will not abandon his mum to painful eternity. Nor she him. It also appears that someone else is on the trail of the Life-Pearl, a blast from the Viking past.
This is wonderful storytelling. Ross Welford keeps the plot zipping along, with the gung-ho intervention of two modern-day kids, intent on helping this curious man-child. Alfie is possessed of the wisdom of ages. He knows that without death, life is mere existence. How this plays out within the story is both thrilling and touching. Literary brain food for thoughtful readers.
The 1,000 Year Old Boy is published by Harper Collins Children’s Books, 400 pages.