This book was initially intended for the Classics Retold project. However, it evidently didn’t go as planned. A lot of things had happened in the past month that I wasn’t able to finish the book on time. Even so, I still plan on reviewing the remaining books left for the project.
Here’s the plot summary from the back cover of the book:
Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the crumbling Glendoveer mansion, home to a magician’s widow, a cage full of exotic birds, and a decades-old mystery. Clara loves old Mrs. Glendoveer, but the birds in the aviary frighten her—they always seem to screech and squall whenever she’s near. And then one day, the mynah bird speaks, and a mystery starts to unravel.
Clara discovers dark secrets about the family, and about her own past. Somehow the birds in the aviary seem to be at the center of it all, and Clara can’t shake the feeling that they are trying to tell her something. . .
The premise of the story already projects a mysterious feeling to the readers. I’m not exactly fond of mystery stories, but I still chose this book to see how it’s connected to The Secret Garden. Just by the title itself, although I highly doubt that the book will center its major plot on the classic, I’m still curious how the author incorporates a little element of The Secret Garden to her story.
I can see some resemblance in the lives of Clara Dooley and Mary Lennox. I guess the only difference is that Clara is primarily thought to be sickly and is being encouraged to stay indoors, while Mary is being told the opposite. Despite so, these high-spirited girls would go extra miles to ease their curiosities. And it is because of their persistence that pushes them to seek answers behind the mysteries going on around the house.
As what the title suggests, The Aviary has mainly to do with birds. These birds have been around since time could tell, living longer than any ordinary birds we know. And how these aviaries connect to Mr. Glendoveer remains a mystery as they are more than just animals trained for magic shows. And then there’s the rumor about missing children which happens to be the children of Mr. and Mrs. Glendoveer. It’s only when one of the birds has spoken to Clara that the mystery begins to unravel and slowly reveal itself to Clara. Then it’s up to her to figure out the whole story.
The story is told in Clara’s point of view and I can say that Kathleen O’Dell successfully captures the mind of a twelve-year-old girl. How she would react to certain situations and how she would think have been perfectly portrayed by the author. Being a single child living in a huge house makes Clara long to have a companion, just as what Mary Lennox experiences when she lives in the Misselthwaite Manor. And just like Mary Lennox, Clara soon befriends someone whom she can share secrets with.
The book starts out slow at first. I’m not immediately hooked at the beginning, but once I get the hang of it, I begin to gradually enjoy the book. As I turn each page, I am also eager to find out the mysteries happening in the book. I almost want to spoil myself, but at the same time, I immediately restrain from the temptation and instead, I just allow myself to be devoured by the magic that the book evokes.
Overall, this book is quite a surprise for me. It’s a bit dark and mysterious, and yet it’s an easy read. I never would have imagined it to be a children’s book. The Aviary proves to be more than just about magic and birds, as it explores some concepts that up until this moment, they still cannot be explained easily. Certainly, those who love books under this genre would enjoy this one as well. If this is meant for older readers, I’m sure the character development of other characters would be explored more in depth. Either way, this is a fun read.