The Secret of Nightingale Wood – Review and Discussion Questions

Our Bookish Mamas choice for February was The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange.

It’s a book for older children, really, with a suggested age range of 10+, but a good read all the same.

What’s The Secret of Nightingale Wood all about?

Set in 1919, it is narrated by Henrietta- known as Henry. Her mother is ill, her father is working abroad and Nanny Jane is preoccupied with Henry’s baby sister. The family have moved to Hope House, a home with a mysterious past. While her mother seems to get more ill, Henry discovers long-forgotten secrets in the attic, and in the Nightingale Wood itself.

What did the Bookish Mamas think?

Our opinions were quite mixed, to be honest!

We had a lot of discussion about who the book was really aimed at. Some people said they thought 8 year olds would cope well with it, while some of the themes – particularly the treatment of mental health in the early 20th Century had quite disturbing elements to them. So perhaps older readers would prefer it. Most people felt that the mental illness suffered by Henry’s mother was a realistic portrayal, and we felt Henry’s isolation – and the fact that no-one would talk to her properly about it – made it more sympathetic.

We pretty much unanimously liked Moth, and felt she was the most interesting character in the novel. She seemed to be more complex than most of the other characters. We did feel that Henry could have explained her reasoning and thinking a bit more – she lost our sympathy at times.

We also loved the baby, Piglet. You know she’s going to grow up to be a very fiesty lady!

After that, though, we felt the plot was a bit too predictable, and some things were just a bit too convenient. It felt familiar, despite not having read it before. Part of that was because of the references to other texts – it has echoes of Little Women, Tom’s Midnight Garden and The Railway Children in particular – and the stock characters (absent father, distant mother, bossy nanny figure, comforting cook). Despite having a number of rave reviews on Good Reads, very few of us were very excited about it.

The Discussion Questions

These were the questions we used for our discussion:

1. What did you think of the book?
2. What did you think of the main character, Henry? Was she well-rounded?
3. What did the ‘parent’ figures contribute, especially Nanny?
4. How effectively did the novel portray treatment of mental health in the early 20th century?
5. What did you think had happened to Robert?
6. Who did you think Moth was? What did you think of her character’s development?
7. Was the plot plausible enough, or did it not matter?
8. Does it shape your view of the book knowing that it is a young adult novel? How well do you think teenagers would cope with some of the ideas in the novel?
9. Was the plot original enough?
10. What did you really enjoy about the book? Would you recommend it?

Have you read it?

If you have read it, and you’d like to join in with our Bookish Mamas linky, do pop your link into the Linky tool. Any book-related post goes, not just reviews of The Power. All we would ask you to do is to link back to Catch a Single Thought, Mrs H’s Favourite Things and The Organised Life Project, and to comment on a few other posts.

Want to join Bookish Mamas?

All our discussion, including live video discussions, happen in our Facebook Group.

Our March 2018 book choice is How to Stop Time by Matt Haig.

Our April 2018 book choice is Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham.

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