Writers like to read, and are supposed to improve their writing by reading more. I recently read The Tale of Oat Cake Crag by Susan Wittig Albert. This book, published in 2010, is the seventh in a series called The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. I will have to read the other six now that I have had a taste of this one. Then, when the eighth book comes out, I will have to read it, too.
This is very much an adult book, though I suspect older children also enjoy it. It deals with mysteries that occur in the Lake District of England in 1912. Though the story is fictional, it does deal with some historic people such as Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. On the eve of World War I, a prototype aeroplane was being tested on the lake as a potential war resource. The aeroplane provides comic relief at the beginning of the book when the owl mistakes it for a large and hungry predator who might eat all of the small birds in the region. Shortly into the story, however, it is obvious that the plot hangs on this aircraft.
What makes this book fun is that, even though it is an adult book, it is written in the style of writing used by Beatrix Potter, yes, the creator of Peter Rabbit and his friends. Those of us who grew up having books about Peter Rabbit read to us, remember the human characteristics of Peter, Flopsey, Mopsey and that villain of all villains, Mr. McGregor. Mr. McGregor is no where around, but there are plenty of heroes and villains, some are human and others are animals talk to each other and interact with each others as though they were human. None of the humans understand the animal talk, but characters like Beatrix and the town doctor at least get the drift of what the animals are trying to say to them.
Susan Wittig Albert has done a lot of research into Beatrix Potter and the region where Beatrix owned a small farm between the lakes. Mrs. Albert creates fictional stories that fit into the rural English countryside and into Beatrix’s life as though the stories were biographical. The fact that Mrs. Albert uses the slightly whimsical children’s book voice of Beatrix Potter does not detract from a well executed plot with interwoven subplots. If anything, the voice makes the book more enjoyable. This is a must read, especially for someone looking for a way to relax and laugh.
Susan Wittig Albert maintains a website at cottagetails.com.