TheBookSmugglers's Reviews > The Aviary

The Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell
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's review
Aug 06, 2012

it was amazing

Original review published on The Book Smugglers

Oh my, The Aviary is lovely.

It’s the beginning of the 20th century and 12-year-old Clara Dooley lives in the decaying Glendoveer mansion where her mother is the housekeeper. Clara has a serious heart condition that prevents her from ever going outside, attending to school or having friends – she is simply not allowed to exert herself. She has always felt comfortable with her life and for the most part Clara is an obedient, happy young girl who loves spending time with her mother, the cook Lucy and the elderly Mrs Glendoveer. But as she grows older, she also grows restless and starts questioning her life – WHY can’t she go outside if she feels so healthy? WHY can’t she be friends with their friendly new neighbour Daphne Aspinal?

And since we are on a roll with the questions: why are the five birds in the mansion’s aviary such creepy creatures? And did one of them really speak the word “Elliot” to her that one day? Spooky does not even begin to cover it, especially when Clara learns that Elliot was the name of Mrs Glendoveer’s young son, kidnapped when he was 5 months old.

And then Mrs Glendoveer passes away. In her will, she leaves a small stipend to the trio so that they can keep Glendoveer mansion’s doors open in the hope that Elliot will eventually return. And just then, all the other birds in the aviary start communicating with Clara, who discovers a much darker, heartbreaking secret about the Glendoveers’ past.

It bears repeating: The Aviary is a lovely, lovely book.

From its start that shows us how lonely and restless Clara is to the beautifully rendered ending that brought me to tears (of the good kind) The Aviary is an incredibly engaging novel with an old-fashioned feel. It features a well-executed story of decades-old mystery that is slowly revealed to the reader through Clara’s eyes, a horrendously sad back-story and all of it with a side of magic and awesome female characters that drive the story forward.

With regards to the mystery: some things are indeed very easy to guess (although I was pleasantly surprised by at least one twist) but that doesn’t matter because The Aviary is not a book about the mystery after all (even though the mystery is extremely important), rather it is a story about the people whose lives said mystery touches.

As such, it the inhabitants of Glendoveer mansion – both past and present – that truly make this book outstanding. Clara is a great protagonist and I adored her arc which took her from utter compliance to sheer activeness through questioning. She is curious, fierce, loyal and she just grows in front of our very eyes into an awesome young lady. She is not perfect and often struggles with understanding how she can be envious of people she loves or how she can outright lie to her mother when necessary (even as she feels guilty about it), kind of halfway trapped between responsibility and recklessness. And then of course, you have the Glendoveers – but about those I can say not more without spoiling the story.

Above all, I loved the characters here and the relationships formed between them. Like the fraught yet loving relationship between Clara and her mother or the hot-and-cold one between her mother and the cook Lucy. But above all, I absolutely adored the friendship that develops between Clara and Daphne from beginning to end. It was just so lovely to see this loving, funny, caring friendship between these two girls developing and growing into bonds of deep sisterhood (their words, not mine).

The Aviary might be a book for children but I think it has tons of crossover potential for YA and adults alike. I just know I loved it with every fibber of my being and wish this little gem to be found and loved by more readers.
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