The Tale of Castle Cottage (The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter)
by Susan Wittig Albert
Cover Artist: Peggy Turchette
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425243503
Date: 06 September 2011 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
As usual, there's a mystery that the must be solved for the people of Near Sawrey, and also one that the animals of the area must solve. Sometimes the two mysteries intertwine and sometimes they don't. Even when the two don't exactly intertwine they might, as in this case, help one another solve their problems. But don't worry; this isn't the type of series where animals and people talk to each other. The animals can only talk to each other. And while they can understand human speech, they often don't completely understand human motivations and concerns.
Also, the narrator is someone from our time who often interjects interesting asides about how the times have changed since 1913 to today, or how stories are generally told, or why narrators can move about or back up to give the reader the information they need about the characters.
All in all, I find these books delightful. In the past, the mysteries have been important, but basically boiling down to people being cruel to each other for various reasons. This time there is a murder to solve. For the animals, a group of thieving rats has moved into the region and they're tipping the balance for survival of the humans and the animals in the land between the lakes. The animals must drive the intruders out or kill them all.
Often we forget how much the world has changed between the time of our grandparents and today. Susan Wittig Albert not only gives us well told tales that twine mysteries into the actual life events of Beatrix Potter, but also lets us experience the life of a country village in England as well as hinting at what life was like in cities. While the trappings of our lives may change, people and their hopes, wishes and desires stay pretty much the same. But as life has changed many things have been lost and Albert spotlights Potter's efforts to help preserve the way of life that she loved.
If you haven't yet read The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, give them a try. There is always room in life for whimsy and good storytelling. If you have enjoyed the series so far be sure to pick up, The Tale of Castle Cottage and spend a few hours with the people of Near Sawrey and Beatrix Potter.
Note the book also has a Historical Note by the author, a list of resources, Glossary, and Recipes (Parsley's Egg Mayonnaise, Cucumber, and Cress Sandwiches; Primrose's Carrot Cake; Cumbrian Beef and Ale Stew with Herb Dumplings; Sticky Toffee Pudding; and Mrs. Beeton's Sage and Onion Stuffing).