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By Dirk Turgid on 02-25-13
Original, Bold, Brilliant New Heroine
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Nancy Springer deserves much credit. The concept of a 'Sherlock Holmes Younger Sister' young adult genre could have been as dull, vapid, and predictable as -- sorry -- the old 'Nancy Drew' serials.
But Ms. Springer has created a genuinely inspired character of depth, passion, emotion, and isn't afraid to make her fallible and and occasionally unlikeable -- in other words, a believable fourteen-year-old girl.Enola is fourteen, the daughter of gentry and living in the country in 1888. She is a late child, born when her mother was thought to be rather beyond child-bearing years. Her two older brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft, live in London, and are estranged from their mother and young sister since the death of their father about a decade before. The tale begins with the disappearance of Enola's mother, on Enola's fourteenth birthday. Sherlock and Mycroft come to the estate, and treat Enola with little more consideration than a housepet, being patronizing and condescending, and planning to pack her off to boarding school.Enola, who has a mind of her own that is quite the equal steel of the brothers' (although it takes them a while to grasp this), will have none of that, and is bent on finding her mother.
What follows is a tale of twists and surprises from the countryside to the lowest part of the docks and wharfs of London, and a retinue of characters that have authenticity and presence -- in fact, the closest to a stereotype and a narrow person in the book is Sherlock's Scotland Yard acquaintance Lestrade, and then only because of the limitations that Conan-Doyle put on him that Springer was quite faithful to follow, although the temptation to breathe a little more life into the ferret-like detective must have been strong.
While Enola can be a bit unlikeable at times, overall she is a magnificent, resonant character, easily as fascinating as her older brother, or brothers, to be precise, even if Mycroft doesn't appear all that often in Conan-Doyle's canonical tales.It's also impossible not to admire the detail and significant differences that a female point of view in Victorian England that Springer has decorated the tale with. It was such a male-dominate society that one forgets that females were little more than property of men, who generally had little regard for the distaff's intelligence, reasoning ability, or even sense of moral purpose. As we watch Enola, and -- vicariously -- her mother try to navigate these murky waters, I can't help but admire both female Holmes 'alternate' use of the imprisoning foundation garments of the day, the bustle, corset, and other various 'dress enhancers' to better, and frankly brilliant, purposes.
The performance by Katherine Kellgren is spot-on, as well. Her fine sense of timing, and of pitch, pacing and her excellent grasp of accents from Home Counties, to Eatonian, to East End Cockney was lovely, quite entertaining, and there was never any doubt as to whom was speaking. Brilliant!
While this novel may be directed towards a young adult market, it is so multilayered that adults will enjoy it as much as the teenaged reader. As I said at the beginning, Nancy Springer has a magnificent achievement in this book. She is an ornament to the writing profession.
Another book that gives insight into Victorian English society, and in fact compliments this one quite well, is Michael Crichton's 'The Great Train Robbery', which I also strongly recommend.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
By Laurie on 03-16-17
a marvelous new heroine
This series is a favorite in our family. when we discovered this book everyone in the house fell in love with it and fought over who would read it next. we all love Katherine Kelgren's narration.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful