NETTLEWOOD by Mary Melwood


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Nettlewood comes praised by the London Times Educational Supplement as ""a good long book,"" and what with the Midlands accents, the great house full of secrets, and the romantic lives (to 12-year-old Lacie at least) of the grownups, this is denser and more authentically atmospheric than the usual gothic mystery. The big secret of Nettlewood--that supposedly slow-witted Poor Tom is really the illegitimate grandchild of old Mrs. Mountsorrel--is at least guessed at by everyone except newcomer Lacie, and the ending, when both boy and old woman are conveniently swept away in the obligatory climactic disaster (in this case a raging flood) is true to type. Readers more attuned to nuance will however be drawn to low-class Fred Sprott and his rapscallion daughter Gertie; Lacie discovers that cheeky Fred is fooling around with her Aunt Nora, nurse to Mrs. Mountsorrel and hard as nails, and it's pleasant to see how deftly he's transformed later on from potential villain into sympathetic chap. We wish something of the same could have been done for Nora, whose emancipation (she drives, smokes and supports herself--unusual in this '20's milieu) seems to account for her hopeless bitchiness. In addition to the enjoyment of nicely modeled characterizations, there's vicarious pleasure to be drawn from nice Aunt Chloe's engagement to the schoolmaster, Gertie's outrageous pranks, and the endless stream of baked goods--bread, curd tarts, cream buns, Spotted Dick--that follows Lacie everywhere she goes. Definitely then, for the reader who wants to settle down to ""a good long book,"" and who won't be disappointed when it turns out to be just an unusually well upholstered diversion.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1975
Publisher: Seabury