The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Winner of the Newbery Award in 1958, it’s incredible how often you see people still referring to it, mostly to admit to a childhood crush on Nat 🙂

This is the story of Kit Tyler, who in 1687 leaves her home in Barbados, to live with her aunt and uncle in Puritanical Connecticut. Kit was raised by her grandfather in a far from conventional way (she knows how to swim, and – the horror! – she’s read Shakespeare!). The story starts when Kit’s already on the boat towards America (where she meets the aforementioned Nat, the captain’s son) and follows her efforts to adapt to her new family and way of life, in a community who doesn’t respond well to Difference.

It’s an intelligent and tongue-in-cheek read, an ode to acceptance. It’s a very short novel, but still manages to successfully cram a lot into it: growing up, friendship, romance and loss. Through the background descriptions, you still find out about life in America at the time, its justice system, religious and social events, women’s domestic life, how a house was built or how food was preserved. All in a gently flowing pace.

In recent years I’ve been reading what I would have read had I been born in Britain or America. Sometimes it works and I can feel the magic, but once in a while the stories pale when I see through adult eyes. The Witch of Blackbird Pond was a good experience, one to add to the likes of Winnie the Pooh, The Railway Children and Anne of Green Gables.

The Grand Tour: Being a Revelation of Matters of High Confidentiality and Greatest Importance, Including Extracts from the Intimate Diary of a Noblewoman and the Sworn Testimony of a Lady of Quality by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Sequel to “Sorcery and Cecilia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot”, it once again follows the adventures of two cousins in a Regency world where everything is normal, except there’s Magic. Cecy and Kate are now married and decide to go on a group honeymoon tour of Europe, but of course they end-up on a race against time to save Europe from doom.

I wasn’t sure about the epistolary format. It made sense in the first book because the cousins were apart and telling each other their separate stories, enriching the narrative with comments and advice. (The two authors actually wrote Sorcery and Cecelia as a “Letter Game” – they built their world together, but individually made up a character and started corresponding with each other). But this time around they’re living the same adventures, only one writing a diary and other a statement. It felt awkward.

Also, I’m afraid the authors are not quite there yet with the different voices – take out the heading and I would have difficulty is knowing who’s who, which is weird when we’re talking about two people actually co-writing the book…

It’s not as fun as “Sorcery and Cecilia”, and if you don’t know anything about the Regency era it’s not here you’ll start learning, but it’s light reading, good for when you’re stranded in the airport the days before Christmas…