The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange was a book I bought for my mother for her birthday. She seemed to like it (she gave it 5 stars on her Goodreads anyway) and gave it back to me to read, which I did, on the train to Liverpool one weekend.
Firstly let me just say, this book looks gorgeous. The paperback edition’s cover folds out at either side to show a black and white line drawing of the titular nightingale and the wood it lives in. I don’t know whether the idea was that you could colour this in, seeing as how colouring books are so in fashion these days, but I think it’s an unusual and lovely touch anyway. There are likewise lovely little line drawings prefacing each chapter. There’s been a lot of thought put into the design of this book and it makes it something quite special.
As in the style of all good old-fashioned children’s books, this story is about two children. It’s just after the Great War and Henry is a twelve year old girl who has recently lost her older brother. She and her family rent a large house in the English countryside to try and heal themselves after their loss. Her mother has become ill, her father has been ever more emotionally distant and so Henry is left with her Nanny, the Cook and her baby sister Piglet for company. Henry must make sense of the mysteries surrounding Hope House. Who’s is the bedroom in the attic? Why is there a witch in the woods? How can she make her mother better again and protect her from the unscrupulous doctors?
Strange writes some good villains – there’s the village doctor, fame hungry and desperate to try some experimental medical treatments on Henry’s mother and the doctor’s sister, who seems desperate to take Piglet away from her family. There’s a good nod to the rise of feminism; the book takes place a year after women over 30 won the right to vote, but outspoken and ambitious women were still highly disapproved of. The doctor shows his disapproval of Henry’s tomboyish nature and love of books, however the women in Henry’s household often conspire to pretend that Henry has been learning needlework or drawing, the more acceptable pastimes for a young lady.
This book is aimed towards the younger teen reader. That said, I can see that a lot of much older folks have thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not a long read by any means but it’s one I’d thoroughly recommend.
You can buy The Secret of Nightingale Wood at the following places. I do not receive commission for books bought via these links. For once Barnes and Noble doesn’t seem to stock it, but you can still buy this book in the US via Amazon.