Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Tale of Hill Top Farm: The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter Captivating is the correct rendering whenever an entourage of animals is involved and their prowess is explored and used for communal good. and Near Sawrey is a pastoralized albeit humanized version of a utopia with slight dystopian elements? Early 1900's and Beatrix Potter brought back to life. The reviewer comes to know Near Sawrey and expects to walk into the past. Beatrix buys Hilltop Farm with temerity and as an escape, to purchase it on her own (?).The mysteries are mild and the death of Miss Tolliver is troubling and who owns her cottage now? Can the visiting animals help the local cats and dog and owl clear the mysteries?

The Tale of Hill Top Farm: The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter
by Susan Wittig Albert
Order: USA Can
Berkley, 2004 (2004)Hardcover
Reviewed by
Mary Ann Smyth
The Tale of Hill Top Farm is a gentle mystery that is
captivating, whimsical, and downright delightful. Susan Albert has taken an
idea, run with it, and produced a novel that is both innovative and
imaginatively believable.Beatrix Potter, of Peter Rabbit fame, has traveled to
the hamlet of Near Sawrey in the fabled Lake District of England. She buys Hill
Top Farm as an escape from her domineering parents and then has to find a way to
fit into the life of a village that looks askance at strangers
... especially at
a woman who has the temerity to purchase a farm on her own when everyone knows a
woman can't run a farm by herself. The fact that she writes tales of animals
that act as though human entrances some of the villagers and appalls others.
Beatrix, who travels with her own entourage - Mopsey and Josey Cottontail, Tom
Thumb the mouse and hedgehog Mrs. Tiddy-Winkle - arrives in Near Sawrey to
complete the paperwork involved with her purchase.
While staying at the
forerunner of a Bed and Breakfast, mysterious happenings occur in the Village
and Beatrix can't rest until she sorts things out. Susan Wittig Albert did
extensive research on Beatrix Potter and brought her back to life on the pages
of this book. The time in question is the early nineteen hundreds. I came to
know Near Sawrey so well, that I fully expected to leave my own home and walk
into the past - with medieval style cottages, country roads, and flowers
blooming in profusion in every front garden.
I took tea with Beatrix and her new
acquaintances and could almost taste the lovely sponge and tea biscuits. The
characterizations are very real. Beatrix Potter could easily be your next door
neighbor. Okay, maybe if that neighbor wore the clothes of 1905 and bowed to the
sensibilities expected of ladies of that time, but you get my drift.
The local
school teacher, Myrtle Crabbe, and her two sisters are definitely out of the
box. Beatrix's fiancé died shortly before her arrival in Near Sawrey and Albert
introduces several possible swains. Inhabitants of Near Sawrey know very well
that their own business is the business of every one else in the village. But
they also know that they each look out for the other and can call on anyone
should they need help. So the disappearance of the Parish Register is troubling.
As is the possibly mysterious death of Miss Tolliver, a respected single woman
who has lived in the village all her life. And what has really happened to the
money for the school roof fund?
Who is the new owner of Miss Tolliver's cottage?
Can the visiting animals be of any help to the local cats and dog - and owl -
who are determined to clear up the questions that are running rampant in Near
It's great fun to have a real personage come to life again through
fiction. I do hope Susan Whittig Albert is hard at work on the next episode of
this wonderfully entertaining new series.The Tale of Hill Top Farm is a must
read. And with holidays around the corner, it seems like the perfect gift for
that special person on your list. One with a touch of whimsy in his or her
character. Be sure to get a copy for yourself, too.

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