The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book Two
Review posted June 9, 2013.
Listening Library, 2011. 5 hours, 57 minutes, on 5 compact discs.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place simply make me laugh and laugh. For Book Two, I started listening to the series on audio, and I found myself chuckling on the way to work and had to tell my co-workers about the series. Listening always slows me down, and in this case it made me smile throughout the day.
Now, for most of the CDs, the narrator's voice is lovely to listen to, a nice proper English voice, and perfect for the series. She gets awfully shrill when she's doing some of the voices, particularly Lady Constance, and the children are a bit hard to make out when they're howling. But overall, the reading is so good, I can overlook some shrill moments. (And they are totally appropriate for Lady Constance, I must admit.)
Okay, the plot of the books is getting yet wilder. Governess Penelope Lumley is making great progress in teaching her three pupils who were raised by wolves. In The Hidden Gallery, they go to London. Many strange and mysterious things are hinted at and there is a scene of uproar at the end. Most of the fun is found along the way, and Penelope's naive but earnest approach to governessing and the big city makes a truly delightful book. In this book, she meets a young man, a playwright, who lives in a London garret, and Penelope's making a "good friend" adds a heart-warming element.
Even though I listened to the book, I decided to check out the print version so I could include at least one of the delightful diversions.
If you have ever had the misfortune of getting lost in a crowded city, you are no doubt already acquainted with a surprising and little publicized fact: The greater the number of people who might potentially be asked for directions, the more difficult it becomes to get someone to actually stop and help.
Scientists who study human behavior call it the Who, Me? syndrome. For example, if you should have the truly awful luck to get a sliver of sparerib stuck in your throat while dining alone in a restaurant in which there is only one other customer, your fellow diner, although a total stranger, will almost certainly leap up and start performing the Heimlich maneuver as soon as you make the universal sign for choking. (If in doubt as to what this sign is, please refer to the informative poster on display in the dining area; this is assuming you are still conscious, of course.)
Whereas, if the same incident takes place in a bustling restaurant full of people, by the time you draw attention to your plight you may have already turned blue and fallen to the floor. At that point you are truly in a pickle, for instead of swift action there will be a lengthy discussion as onlookers try to determine which of them is best qualified to assist. Some will suggest mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, while others will strive to recall episodes of medical television dramas that may or may not be relevant to your case. A few will phone for help; others will panic and require medical assistance themselves; and many, alas, will simply be annoyed that their dinner was interrupted and will tip their waiters ungenerously as a result.
Knowing this, in the future you might well choose only to dine in unpopular restaurants. Penelope did not have this option. London was crowded, and there was no getting away from it. Each new street she trudged down with her three weary charges in tow seemed more packed with unhelpful people than the one before. After an hour's aimless wandering she knew that she and the Incorrigibles were lost, but all her attempts to ask for directions went unanswered in the din and rush of the crowd.
I do recommend reading these books in order. There's suspense slowly building, and questions about the children's background and about Penelope's background, too. A mysterious gypsy tells the children, "The Hunt is on!" and there are other ominous indications that they may be in danger.
I do know that if Maryrose Wood's sense of humor appeals to you -- and it fits mine exactly -- then you will definitely want to read these books from start to finish. This episode deals with children raised by wolves in the big city, coming face-to-face with "culture."