The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book VI: the Long-Lost Home is the long-awaited finale to the Incorrigible Children series by Maryrose Wood.
If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s about three children raised by wolves whom Lord Frederick Ashton brings home after he discovered them on a hunting trip. Needing someone to teach and “tame” the children, Lord Ashton advertised for a governess. He was sent the plucky Miss Penelope Lumley, graduate of Agatha Swanburne’s Academy for Poor Bright Females.
A number of intriguing mysteries and connections have been traced through the first five books: the fact that Penelope’s hair is the exact same color as the Incorrigibles, that Frederick Ashton gets “wolfy” during full moons, that Frederick’s presumed-dead father is not really dead but has not revealed himself. Book V ended with Penelope separated from the Incorrigibles, having been tricked into switching places with a tutor to the Horrible Babushkinovs in Plinkst, Russia.
In this final book, the looming due date of Lady Constance Ashton’s baby means the family curse will come to a head, and one side or the other will be destroyed. How can Penelope help them while so far away? How can she possibly get home with no resources?
All of the various threads are satisfactorily resolved in this final book. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t normally go for books about “curses” or ones that have soothsayers as recurring characters. Those weren’t elements in the first book that got me hooked on the series. The most objectionable element to me was a seance, I think in Book III. If you read this with your children, you’ll have to discuss these issues in concert with your beliefs.
I also don’t read all that many children’s books, and I am not sure what age level this book is intended for.
But what I love most about the series is the clever writing and the humor. Every book is sprinkled with Agatha Swanburne’s pithy sayings and includes explanations and references to a couple of classics (Hamlet and The Count of Monte Cristo, in this case). Values such as hard work, resourcefulness, basic decency, and loving family are emphasized in each book.
I loved the distinction between “Optoomuchism” – an overly optimistic and ultimately untenable outlook – and “pessimax” – pessimism to the extreme.
I happened to listen to the first book due to a free audio version, and I fell in love with Katherine Kellgren’s fantastic narration, character voices, and inflections. I chose to listen to all of the books via audio because she added so much to them. Sadly, she passed away before the final book was published. There is a very touching afterword in this book honoring Katherine and telling of the friendship that had arisen between the author and narrator. Audiobooks don’t always include forwards and afterwards, so I am glad this one did. This audiobook was ably narrated by Fiona Hardingham.
These are my reviews of the previous books:
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book III: The Unseen Guest (for some reason did not review this one)
(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)