Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Secret of Nightingale Wood, or, Who Is That Eating My Dinner?

Well, I know what you're thinking, you haven't heard from me in so long and you're wondering what the dogtail I've been doing with my time.  Maybe you thought my dog years had caught up with me, or I'd finally realized that dogs can't read.  But here I am, still beautiful and furry and literate.  My muzzle may be gray, but my heart is young.  Oh, and I'm deaf now, so I don't have to listen to the whining of those cats.
I just read "The Secret of Nightingale Wood" by Lucy Strange.  I picked up this book because the bird on the cover looked delicious.  Also, who can resist such a great author name?  I'm going to start calling myself Princess Berzerk, I'm sure I'll get more readers.
This book has everything - grief, fear, frustration, mystery, fantasy, beauty.  Do you ever feel powerless, caught in a situation that is totally out of your control?  Henry, short for Henrietta, has moved with her grieving family to Hope House.  Her old life was shattered by a fire that took her brother's life.  Now her mother is ill with sadness, her father escapes by taking a job in Italy, and Henry is left with Nanny Jane and Piglet, the baby (not her real name!).

How can Henry bring her family back from the brink when the evil Doctor Hardy has taken control with his quack medicine and inflated self-importance?  Lucy Strange has given voice to the very difficult state of affairs that exists when women and children are powerless against the whims of men.  This was essentially true of the world post World War I, when this book takes place.  Unfortunately it is still true in some parts of the world in 2018.  I know because I am a very literate dog, and try to keep abreast of these things.
Luckily for Henry she has the help of an array of wonderful characters, including the ghost of her brother, who may or may not exist.  They enable her to find her courage and use her natural cleverness to overcome her situation and bring her family back together.
"The Secret of Nightingale Wood" is beautifully written.  It has the feel of a classic, and a poetic richness that rivals some of the best books for children from the past.  I might curl up on the forbidden couch, perhaps with my nose in the bowl of pistachios, and reread one of my favorites, "Tom's Midnight Garden", to keep this magic going for a little longer. 
In case you were wondering who was eating my dinner, it was one of the cats.  I have chased and slobbered on it.