NELL OF BRANFORD HALL by William Wise

NELL OF BRANFORD HALL

Age Range: 11 - 13
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Loosely connected to historical events, this tale of a 17th-century English town that isolated itself to prevent the plague from spreading celebrates selfless courage, but it does so at some distance, and within the confines of a contrived, ordinary story. Daughter of a prosperous, bookish squire, Nell Bullen has enjoyed an idyllic upbringing, and despite confirmed rumors of plague, eagerly accompanies her father to London when he is inducted into the Royal Academy. Guided by the up-and-coming Samuel Pepys, Nell tours the city, avoiding the plague-ridden districts until by mischance she witnesses a horrifying mass burial. Sobered, she returns to Branford, not long before the local tailor takes ill. Viewed largely from the distant safety of the manor house, the townfolks’ principled decision to stay put rather than flee, and their subsequent suffering, will seem a remote catastrophe to readers, and Nell’s stilted narrative style (“Among our visitors from London was a singular young man whom I misjudged completely at the start,”) gives this the artificiality of a formula romance. Though the act from which this story springs merits commemoration, the inner and outer devastation wrought by disease is more vividly captured in Cynthia DeFelice’s Apprenticeship of Lucas Whittaker (1996) and Anna Myers’s Graveyard Girl (1995). (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8037-2393-8
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1999