Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate
Author: Lucy Strange
Publisher: Chicken House
Henrietta (Henry) has just moved to Hope House in the country, away from her home in London, and her father takes work abroad in Italy. Henry is forced to deal with her mother’s illness and the awful Doctor Hardy, with little help from Nanny Jane. As her mother gets progressively worse, Henry seeks more help from Moth, the “witch” in the woods, who used to be a nurse. As Moth tries to help in secret, the mysterious events are blamed on Henry, who Doctor Hardy believes is going mad. Henry is certain she isn’t crazy, and that her mother needs to be allowed to live without being forced sedatives. Eventually, Henry learns her own strength, enough to rescue her mother and little sister, as well as help her family get back together.
This novel was an incredible debut by Lucy Strange. Henry is a well-rounded character, and while the plot is charming, it has a real substance to it that draws the reader in. The book deals with real issues that any reader can learn from: loss, grief, friendship, and hope. Doctor Hardy is immediately characterized as detestable; however, the educated reader will recognize medieval beliefs in him, such as the belief that women should never be overly “excited” and should be concerned primarily with sewing. While mental institutions no longer experiment pyrotherapy on their patients, the notion that sleeping away their problems can still be applied to the ill-informed, who believe that mental issues can be ignored rather than dealt with in a rational manner. This novel was an incredible read, and any reader can learn from the multiple lessons in the narrative.