Thursday, April 26, 2012
A high recommendation: The Incorrigible Children Series
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest (which is the third book in the series) made its appearance at the end of last month, and I was finally able to get my hands on it the day before yesterday. And (as would be expected) I finished it yesterday, after once again completely devouring MaryRose Wood's fantastic style and intriguing story.
I've been pleasantly surprised by this series, which I discovered when the second book came out last year, and have since been eagerly awaiting the next installment. These books are geared toward 8-12 year olds, though I certainly find them extremely enjoyable at 25. I've read on writing blogs and interviews that a writer must avoid pulling the reader out of the story at all costs. In fact, the less aware they are that they are reading a book, the better! MaryRose Wood flouts this advice in the most flagrant way--for which I applaud her. She constantly pulls the reader out of the story in order to give a bit of fascinating side information about this or that definition, or point of culture that would be relevant for the Victorian setting of the story. However, somehow, this "bad" technique of pulling the reader out of the narrative to give extra information is perfectly in line with the style of story...almost to the point that these parentheticals often feel like they are delivered by the governess herself--which in turn makes us feel like Miss Lumley is writing the book, even though it is not in first person. It is extraordinarily done, very unusual, and completely charming in every way.
I also give the plot high marks for its intriguing twists and turns. In the first book we are introduced to the brand-new governess, Miss Penelope Lumley and her three pupils that are thought to have been raised by wolves in the forests of Ashton Place. Granted, a difficult premise to entertain, but Wood does an excellent job of making it believable and she takes full advantage of the humorous situations that must result in trying to civilize such creatures. In the second book, we see clearly that there is an enormous mystery surrounding Penelope's disappeared (but, as we find out, still alive) parents, the Lord Ashton's strange fits, the Judge Quinzy using a phony name, and the similarity between Penelope's natural hair color to the childrens'! (For a more thorough review of the first two books, see this post.) Though we do not receive any direct answers to these questions in The Unseen Guest we have many more suspicions that the "Judge" may be somehow related to the Ashtons, and is for some reason, moving purposely to harm the children. We also see Old Timothy (the coachman) being enigmatically involved in underhandedly protecting Miss Lumley and the Incorrigibles. We also get to meet the children's wolf "parent" and see their "home" cave which is mysteriously stocked with fluffy pillows, quilts, candles, and a nearby picnic basket that is full of their favorite sandwiches. Who knew of their existence before they were "found", and are they friend or foe?
We are still left with a boatload of questions unanswered, along with the hope of more information coming at satisfactory intervals between the outrageous adventures that a life with such children must necessarily bring about. I, for one, am impatient for the next book, but not at all in a hurry for the series to end!