Thursday, November 15, 2012
The Case of the Left-Handed Lady by Nancy Springer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another very smart story, it's just fun to watch her puzzle it all out. It's kind of a mix between cozy mysteries and traditional detective stories in that it's a regular girl who becomes a "perditorian" or finder of lost things. The steps she follows and the process she takes is actually very believable. She gets scared, she flips out occasionally, she's clever but not insanely so, brave but not a superhero. Yes, it's a stretch to believe she's so independent at fourteen, but she is a Holmes after all. I just really like this girl, she's a great mix of clever and vulnerable, witty but not snarky. I also like the believable way that she's discovering the world, she's very well-read but there are so many things that a young girl of her time just has no way of knowing, books she can get her hands on may mention things like ladies of the night or white slave trade, but they don't say what they actually are, so Enola is in the dark about these things still. Even now that she's living in London and has seen some of the worst the city has to offer, she's still an innocent fourteen year-old girl in many ways and seeing how she grows into her new situation is going to be fascinating.
I'm also enjoying the way the historical lessons are layered into the story without being too preachy. I think kids (and adults) will absorb a lot of information along the way while just reading an enjoyable story. It's hard as a woman not to root for Enola and her mother in their quest for freedom from society's strangling (literally) restrictions. And this book had a lot of interesting information about what was going on at the time in London regarding the labor movement. "And after we withdrew bloodied and defeated, this is what one member of Parliament had to say, 'It is in bad taste for people to parade their insolent starvation in the face of the rich and trading portions of the town. They should have starved in their garrets.'" And another good quote, "Yet one could speak the truth and still be a villain." Just coming off of a rough election season those ideas resonated through the centuries with me.
Enola is a great hero, someone you can really root for. The books are a definitely a bit dark, the London portrayed in these stories isn't glamorous, it's poor, cold, and hungry. But kids who love the Hunger Games and heroes like Katniss for her cleverness and bravery might admire Enola as well. Her situation certainly isn't quite as desperate, and there's no thrilling romance in this one. The big difference is that Enola is taking control and doing the manipulating instead of being controlled by everyone else. That's what makes her so interesting. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how she manages to stay safe and free in the next book and what mysterious puzzle she solves next.
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