Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Book Pick -- The Aviary, by Kathleen O'Dell

Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has lived her whole life in the crumbling Glendoveer mansion. There, her mother is one of two servants to the kind, widowed, and aged Mrs. Glendoveer. Clara's mother, though a genuinely caring parent, forbids her to leave the mansion because her constitution is supposedly delicate due to a heart condition. It's not a bad life, and Clara adores Mrs. Glendoveer, but she does long for a friend, and the five distinctly different birds who live in the aviary out back, squawking as they do whenever Clara comes within eyeshot, are a tad creepy.

Mrs. Glendoveer has not had an easy life, and when she passes away Clara discovers that the Glendoveer family harbors many secrets -- which her mother seems to know all about but will not share. What Clara does learn is that Mrs. Glendoveer, as a young girl from a prominent family, had fallen head over heels for George Glendoveer, a famous magician, and been disowned by her family when they married. Worse, the Glendoveers suffered an unspeakable tragedy when their children were kidnapped, drowned under mysterious circumstances, and George Glendoveer was blamed. It's when she suspects the birds are more than mere birds (isn't the mynah shouting the name Elliott, the name of the youngest child?), secretly makes a friend with whom to partner, and longs to break free of her identity as the invalid shut-in that Clara plunges into a decades-old murder mystery.

For me, this book pushes a ton of good buttons. It's historical mystery, literary writing yet with a definite plot, one of those "sink down into it" stories. Just as some contemporary stories have a timeless feel, so does this historical novel, and that "timeless classic" tone is a huge favorite with me. The friendship between Clara and Daphne is dear, and there's a good amount of pranking and humor as the girls turn the tables on the bad guys.

There's just one thing: I figured out the big reveal, which comes somewhere around pp. 150-160 if memory serves, on p. 3. Occupational hazard, probably. But this did not stop me from reading the whole book, as I was already well hooked. Highly recommended.

17 comments:

Barbara Watson said...

I know I'll love something described as a timeless classic. And discovering secrets is always a bonus too. Thanks for highlighting this.

inluvwithwords said...

This sounds great. I usually think I have a story all figured out. Rarely am I right. Thanks for the review, Marcia.

Mirka Breen said...

I trust your recommendation, Marcia. This is one I will check.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

My first impression was that this must start out slow but I do see some anxiety raising possibilities.

Love the cover which is certainly reminiscent of THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE. I loved that cover too.

I appreciate the heads-up, Marcia.

Marcia said...

Barbara -- Two phrases that always do it for me are "timeless classic" and "intersection of literary and commercial." And secrets are always a draw.

Ruth -- I love stories that I THINK I have figured out but then they go one better. I feel like that author really knows her story well and knows how it will affect the readers.

Mirka -- Hope you enjoy it!

Joyce -- I didn't find it slow. I was drawn in right away. Part of that was because I found these people actually LIKING each other refreshing. I love the cover too, and I think you're right about it resembling Calpurnia Tate. (Which I found slower-moving than this book. :))

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

This sounds eerie in an Edgar Allen Poe sort of way. Thanks for the wonderful review.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrea Mack said...

This sounds so interesting. I'm going to look for it. Thanks, Marcia!

Medeia Sharif said...

Historical, mystery, and literary? This is going on my wish list. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

Marcia said...

Cynthia -- Yes, I think you've hit it well with Edgar Allen Poe.

Andrea -- Hope you love it!

Medeia -- I know, I go for books that have multiple genres, and that threesome is tops.

Christina Farley said...

I'm going to have to read this one since you highly recommend it! And I love historical fiction.

Marcia said...

Christina -- I can hardly get enough historical fiction either.

Susan Fields said...

Those birds do sound creepy! I love a book with lots of secrets to discover.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

thanks for talking about this one! sounds good.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

The Aviary sounds wonderful. I'll be adding it to my TBP (to be purchased) List.

Marcia said...

Susan -- Yes, I think secrets are automatic tension-raisers. Perhaps I'm just nosy. :)

Shelli -- It's such fun to find a book that combines so many of my favorite things.

Sharon -- Hope you love it!

Anonymous said...

Christina -- I can hardly get enough historical fiction either.