Monday, February 05, 2018

The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange

The Secret Garden is one of Henrietta’s favorite stories, and her own story will remind readers of that older book. Henry, as everyone calls her, and her parents, Nanny Jane, and baby sister called Piglet have moved to the English countryside to live in Hope House with its mysterious forest. Henry’s father is soon called to work abroad in the aftermath of World War I.

Henry’s mother is ill and the doctor who is caring for her wants to put her in an asylum with the ominous name of Helldon. Nanny Jane worries but lacks the confidence to oppose Dr. Hardy, so the responsibility falls on Henry who turns thirteen that summer. In her fear and loneliness, Henry turns to her dead brother’s voice and to the witch who lives in Nightingale Wood.

The story slowly reveals many secrets and paints a vivid picture of how mental illnesses once were treated. The plot’s mystery is well balanced with Henry’s character development. Both period and place are tangible to all the senses. The Secret of Nightingale Wood is a youth book that can also be enjoyed by the whole family. While it is not a fantasy, the books it reminded me of most were fantasy novels like Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass.

Review by Carolyn Caywood, retired from VBPL 


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