February 18, 2015

Review: The Cottage in the Woods

The Cottage in the Woods By Katherine Coville
Available now from Knopf BFYR (Penguin Random House)
Review copy

I love fairytale retellings, and was familiar with Katherine Coville's art from the work she did on her husband Bruce Coville's novels.  I was quite curious to see what she would do with the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears."  It turns out that she would marry it to Victorian romance and social issues in an engrossing pastiche.

Ursula travels to the Vaughn home to be a governess to Teddy, an unusually well-behaved child.  She soon discovers that the house holds a secret, a young blonde human.  Meanwhile, she finds herself drawn to Mr. Bentley, a fellow employee of the house, despite a disastrous first meeting.  She also finds herself involved in local politics, as the Enchanted of the town work to live with the humans as equals, not lessers. 

I loved how the fairytale story weaved together with a Pride-and-Prejudice-esque plotline for Ursula and the tensions between the Anthropological Society and the men's choir (as the pro-humans and equality factions are known).  What I'm not so sure is that the middle grade audience will enjoy it.  It's a long story, and the style is somewhat old fashioned.  I think it's a treat, but would a ten year old?

I think it is worth a try for any fan of fairytales.  The twists on Goldilocks are clever, as are the references to other stories such as "The Musicians of Bremen."  At the very least, it might make a good read-aloud book.  But I think the main audience is older, the sort who enjoy classic literature as well as a bit of whimsy.

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