The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood
by Susan Wittig Albert
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Hardcover Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0425210049
Date: 27 June, 2006 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood covering 24th of April 1907 to May 1st, is the third of the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter by Susan Wittig Albert. Miss Felicia Frummety is not keeping the rat population down at Hill Top Farm and the village cats have issued an ultimatum. Ridley Rattail has had it with the rowdy rats that have moved into the attic so he posts an ad for cats to rid himself of these undesirables. Of course the humans have their share of problems, Major Kittridge has returned to Sawrey with a wife, dashing the hope of Dimity Woodcock. The village is invited to meet the new lady of the manor but rumors are rampant when it's learned she was an actress. There's also the rumor that the Major is planning to develop his shoreline property. The Vicar's cousin and his wife have moved in and the Vicar is far too kind to toss them even after they've outstayed his patience. Jeremy Crosfield, who is an excellent student, has to leave school and start his apprenticeship since he can't afford to continue his schooling -- the animals and humans are concerned about this event. And Beatrice arrives once again to spend some time at her farm.
Okay, up front I have to say I'm really enjoying these books. The interweaving of the various threads balancing the point of view of the humans and the animals is seamless. With each book, I gain more respect for Albert's ability to slip her stories into the undocumented bits of the Beatrix Potter timeline. She also maintains that playful seriousness that I also found in the Potter's little books. The characters are fully developed and while the mysteries are light they are ones that would have serious impact on the people of the story and their environment.
In this story, the small folk of the woods, fairies play a part. Are they real? Well I think that's for each of us to decide, and the author plays the story with a light hand to give us all a chance to believe as we will. After all if you can accept talking animals then are fairies that much of a stretch?
These are perfect books for when you are feeling a bit down. They are just the thing to help restore your believe in the inherent goodness of humankind and to help you see the world around in a different light. No, I don't think the author has a message to hit us with; she just tells a good story with a light touch that leaves us feeling more upbeat and in this summer's heat that's a wonder in itself.