February 18, 2012

The Secret of Willow Castle - Lyn Cook

Carrying on the trend of re-reading books from my childhood, I decided to pick up this book out of my bookcase. My copy has been re-read enough times that the binding is falling apart. Given that, I was quite disappointed to discover, while searching for a cover image, that this book seems to be out of print. Lyn Cook was one of my favourite authors when I was in primary school. I think that I read library copies ofmost of her books, as this is the only one that I own; but I remember reading and enjoying Samantha's Secret Room, Pegeen and the Pilgrim, and The Bells on Finland Street. Now on to this book...

Book: The Secret of Willow Castle by Lyn Cook. It is the story of Henrietta Macpherson, age 11, of Napanee, Ontario in 1834. She is dealing with lots of problems as she is growing up - a secret friend who is a servant for her father's political adversary; the social expectation for her to act like a "lady"; a beloved cousin, John Alex who is rising in the world (and later became Sir John Alexander MacDonald, first Prime Minister of Canada); slavery as it is being abolished in the British Empire; and just day-to-day life for a well-off family in rural Upper Canada in 1834. An interesting note - Henrietta's father, Allen Macpherson, was a real person (I haven't been able to find out if Henrietta was real or not), and their house really exists in Napanee.

First Read: I don't remember. Probably around grade 3 or so, when I was devouring "chapter books" like crazy. I enjoyed it enough to re-read it countless times between then and now.

Original Impressions: This was the first Lyn Cook book I read, but it lead me to read many of her other books as I mentioned above. As with Shadow in Hawthorn Bay, I loved reading books set close to where I lived, and Napanee was less than a half hour drive away.

Current Impressions: It is still an enjoyable read as an adult. I enjoy the pen and ink drawings that accompany each chapter. Henrietta is believable as an 11/12 year old. And I love historical fiction written for any age group - it is a window into a different time.

And that is about all I have to say about this book; other than I wish that it were still in print.

This is my 5th Canadian re-read for the Canadian Book Challenge at The Book Mine Set.


8 comments:

Buried In Print said...

I liked this one a lot, but I absolutely loved Samantha's Secret Room; I read it to bits. And I so desperately, desperately wanted a secret room. (I re-read it a couple of years ago, and it was good, but not as good as I remembered it; it really does seem old-fashioned now, but I still enjoyed it, and I still want a secret room.)

Medea said...

I am really interested in this one and Samantha's Secret Room, will try to find them.

Kate said...

Samantha's Secret Room was my other favourite Lyn Cook, but I don't own a copy - I remember borrowing it from my grade 3 teacher, Mr. Esford and reading it then, and maybe 8 or 10 years later finding it in the library and re-reading it as a teenager.

Medea - I wish you good luck finding these books - Samantha's Secret Room may still be in print, but you will probably have to look through used book sites to find Willow Castle :-(

wordpress said...

I have this book and in fact in the middle of it now! The back cover has fallen off (though I still have it).The binding is very old and I treat it like royalty!Cool thing is I've been in the Allen Macpherson household myself!I had a daycamp there.(I'm 8,My grandma gave me the book). 'Tis a beautiful book and I could help you explain the house just email me! And yes I have an email I'm spoiled! LOL emsb03@hotmail.com!!!

Kate said...

Wordpress - I'm glad that people are still reading this book! I grew up very close to Napanee (just outside of Belleville), and I remember the librarian at my school telling me about the Allen Macpherson house. It's very exciting that you got to attend a daycamp there. If you live in Napanee, have you read any other books that take place near there? I wrote about Shadow in Hawthorn Bay earlier, and there are a few books in that series that take place just south of Napanee in Prince Edward County. It's always fun to read about places that you know!

Anonymous said...

My friend got it yesterday n is halfway through it today

Karyn Huenemann said...

Like you, I have a blog with reviews of the books I have read -- from childhood until now. I have actually been on the phone a number of times with Lyn Cook, who at 95 is not only alive but cheerful and sharp and the most wonderful of ladies! I have only read The Secret of Willow Castle and The Bells on Finland Street, as her books were not a part of my youth... but I will be buying a bunch more from ABEBooks and reading them to review inthe near future!

Anonymous said...

As it relates to Henrietta Macpherson in the book the secret of the willow, I believe Henrietta was a real person. I have an 1844 envelope addressed to Sir John A MacDonald from a Henrietta in Gananouque. I did a bit of research on ancestry.ca and found a 1861 Kingston census with an Allan and Mary MacPherson listed as parents of a Henrietta, a Jas (I believe to be James) as children of the household. She was listed as age 37
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