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Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance

Review

Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance

Fourteen-year-old Mable Riley and her sister Viola move to Goodhand Farm in Sellerton, Ontario, in 1901. Viola will teach at the local school; Mable is to attend eighth grade and help her sister with the younger students.

Mable expects exciting times. She records her new life in her journal, which is crammed full of her daily happenings, current news stories, her own silly poems, correspondence and the ongoing cliffhanger installments of her serial romance/adventure yarn. Mable doesn't hold back on the details of day-to-day life, such as attending a one-room schoolhouse and how much work goes into everyday chores like laundry.

Mable soon meets her fellow students: pretty and petty Elizabeth, the identical heartthrob Brown twins and funny-looking Tommy Thomas. She befriends a fascinating neighbor, Mrs. Rattle, who scandalizes the community by wearing bloomers (pants) instead of dresses, leaving her hair down and voicing her opinions. Mrs. Rattle's cottage, The Silver Lining, stuns Mable. It is adorned with an actual typewriter --- and a mural of a naked dancer.

Mable's friendship with Mrs. Rattle leads her deep into a community controversy. Mable's actions imperil Viola's teaching position and test her own loyalty and bravery. Sellerton's population is divided; the sisters' landlords are furious at Mable. Can the situation be mended? Or will Viola and Mable have to leave the town?

Author Marthe Jocelyn handles matters of ethics in a realistic manner, with Mable realizing there is no absolute right or wrong to her actions. Characters are also true to life --- outspoken Mrs. Rattle conceals amazing secrets; beautiful, sometimes mean-spirited Elizabeth has some very fine qualities; Viola is frequently irritable for no good reason; the handsome Brown twins aren't gifted in the personality department; and true romance can be found with the least likely partners.

Mable is funny, clever and believable. The entertaining plot, swift and subtly full of fascinating historical details (who knew women once used pine cones to scrub pots?), develops to a satisfying and unexpected resolution. The book itself, a beautiful volume with embossed golden lettering on the spine and creamy heavy pages, is lovely. The purely wonderful MABLE RILEY is destined to be a much-loved classic.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on February 2, 2004

Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance
by Marthe Jocelyn

  • Publication Date: February 2, 2004
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 076362120X
  • ISBN-13: 9780763621209