Newbery, L. (2006) Set in Stone New York: Laurel Leaf
Appetizer: Samuel, a young artist bent on making a name for himself, has come to the house of Fourwinds to tutor the daughters of a wealthy landowner. With the help of Charlotte, the girls’ governess, he must fight to discover the dark secrets surrounding the home before he is overcome by them.
Friends, you know how occasionally I’ll recommend a book and add a little warning along the lines of “You might want to skim this over before letting your child check it out”?
You definitely – DEFINITELY – want to make sure this book is acceptable to your personal set of standards before allowing your tween or teen to read it. Don’t believe me? In no particular order, we’ve got betrayal, madness, suicide, rape, incest, murder, illegitimate children, homosexuality, and a brief nod to the horrors of World War I. So please. Consider this a warning.
All craziness aside, though, I absolutely loved Set In Stone! Linda Newbery is consistently a fantastic young adult author, so this book did not disappoint. (Of course, it also had a certain Soap Opera air about it that I was bound to find fun. Assuming a soap opera could be set in England at the end of the nineteenth century. Probably it wouldn’t be picked up by many networks....)
The characters are spot on: Samuel, with his burning desire to succeed as an artist despite the glimpses we have of his bitter, fatigued future self – Marianne, all tempestuousness and beauty mixed with Deep Dark Secrets – Juliana, who sort of fades into the background, but with good reason – Charlotte, slowly coming out of her icy shell..... It’s brilliant, watching them each grow and change as Samuel and Charlotte discover more and more about their current place of employment.
The final twist comes at the end of the book. One would think, given the constantly fluctuating plot filled with SHOCK and SURPRISE and HORROR, that the ending would follow suit. Instead, it slowly peters out, leaving the reader with a feeling that the story has come completely and utterly to a close, but without the expected drama. I’m not completely sure if I liked this way of leaving the characters, but I can’t deny that it was a relief to step back from the thunderstorms and furtive glances and simply let their lives play out.
"I saw that she was not a woman but girl - an adolescent girl, with hair wild and loose under her hooded cloak - and no ghost, but a living person, breathing, panting, alarmed." (P. 9)
"Above me was golden sunlight and birdsong, but my mind was occupied with what might lurk unseen in the depths beneath my flailing legs. I could almost feel the blubbery touch of fish mouths against my limbs, the slime of eely creatures that might rise from the mud at the lake's bottom, the bloated touch of drowned flesh - all I can say is that, overcome with an unease that amounted almost to horror, I struck out for shore as fast as I could swim." (P. 112)
"Their postures were eloquent - Mrs Farrow was stooped, her face buried in both hands; Juliana, leaning against her, was weeping inconsolably - it was a heart-rending tableau." (P. 254)
"Take care what you say, Samuel, or you will regret it. You have found out certain things - yes, you must have been asking questions, and prying, and drawing your dramatic conclusions. But let me assure you they are quite wrong! And I must warn you - do not repeat what you have just said, do not - or the consequences will be serious indeed." (P. 277)
Tasty Rating: !!!!
If You Thought This Was Delicious, Try:
The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman
Sally Lockhart is the brilliant Victorian-era heroine, and Pullman's books are filled with the perfect amount of intrigue and humor to keep any reader interested.