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The Tale of Hawthorn House: The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter by Susan Wittig Albert
Cover Artist: Peggy Turchette
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425216552
Date: 04 September 2007 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Publisher's Page / Series Website / Show Official Info /

Family. It's all about family. Beatrix Potter can only have short visits to her farm because her parents don't approve and they need her to run their home in London. Her brother Bertram Potter has escaped to his own farm but he can't escape all the demands of his parents either. Jemima Puddle-duck wants to hatch her own eggs and have children to cherish. Dimity Woodcock has put her chance of love out of her mind because she knows her brother won't approve. A woman made a mistake and a baby is left on Beatrix Potter's doorstep, needing a home. But in August 1908, women didn't always have the freedom to do choose their own path, pick their own mates, or have a career. The Tale of Hawthorn House is a tale of an abandoned child and the impact it has on the residents of New Sawrey.

Once again Albert has crafted a tale that lets us enjoy the English countryside of the Beatrix Potter paintings and the inhabitants of Near Sawrey and its environs. The omniscient point of view allows us to enjoy observing everyone in town and yet be outside the story. This viewpoint can annoy some people but I find it, when used as here as a guide to the story with occasional asides to fill us in, to be amusing and in a way adding to the comfort of the story. There's the story of the humans and that of the animals that populate a village surrounded by farms. Sometimes the threads of their stories cross and affect each other but only the readers get to see how these two tales interact with each other.

The central mystery of who is the baby's mother and why was the child abandoned would normally be moot as the child would be placed in a work house and raised there. Luckily, this child was left on Beatrix Potter's doorstep and thus has an advocate. This is a look at the times, putting faces to the beliefs and prejudices of those times -- that some of those beliefs haven't changed much in the intervening years, or at least not for some people.

Families are something all of us can relate to in one way or another and in The Tale of Hawthorn House. There are the families we're born into, the families that we make for ourselves, and the families that we hope to achieve. Ideals, idealism, roles, and attitudes are important but, at heart, it's all about families.

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