by Lucy Strange
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
Ok, this one comes with some caveats. Yes, it was very well written, but OH MAN am I not sure this is a book for kids. It is super dark in terms of mental health stuff and asylums. But let’s back up a sec.
Henrietta and her family move from London to a small town in 1911 after a tragic incident in which her brother died. The nanny takes care of Henry’s baby sister, born just after, when neither of Henry’s parents can deal with life. Mama has never held the baby and slowly goes down a dark spiral in her own mind, overcome with grief and unable to heal. Father just plain leaves, escaping to Italy and his work. Eventually the sinister-seeming doctor manages to wrest Mama away from the house and up to the asylum; he then sets his sights on Henry and the baby, whom the family calls Piglet because she accidentally got named Roberta after her brother, Robert). Dr. Hardy takes Piglet to his house for safety and then seems to indicate he would like to sedate and lock up Henry, too. But before he can, she calls on the mysterious woman living in the woods behind the house for help.
I liked that there were a lot of layers to this story, and lots of bits of information to put together, some doable, some not. The upsetting, more adult-oriented, nature of the story reminded me strongly of Nest, though I think the historical aspect (of both stories but especially this one which feels much more dated) helps to temper it a bit. People are generally not sedated and carted off to asylums in straitjackets anymore, so this seems a bit more far-fetched and not quite as “gonna happen to me” scary. I also like that Henry saves the day in a more or less believable way. I also loved the relationship between her and the cook and her husband, and the lawyer handling the rental of the house they’re staying in. All sorts of help from good grownups to balance out the bad few.