Mabel Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance by Marthe Jocelyn has a title that creates expectations, don’t you think? I expected it to be a witty, adventurous type of book and I guess it was, a bit. This piece of historical fiction reminded me a bit of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables or Emily of New Moon. It was a similar vein, though not as good (in my opinion).
It’s the late 1800s and Mable Riley is a young girl in the eight grade. She has accompanied her sister, Viola, to a new town where Viola has her first post as Schoolmistress. Mable is full of imagination and vim, looking for adventure and romance. Unfortunately the little Ontario town in which she finds herself is not so different from home. Still, there are new diversions, such as winning the spelling bee, and finding out more about Mrs Rattle, a widow who lives down the road. Mrs. Rattle is unusual and shocking – wearing daring new fashions and holding bold opinions. Mable might have found a friend as well as trouble in Mrs. Rattle.
The story is written as a journal entry, which poems, letters, and a love story penned by Mable to fill it out.
I like that the story deals with the every-day life of that era, including real issues of the time, such as women’s rights. Mable makes a sometimes naive narrator, who sees the “shocking” opinions of the suffragettes as bold and dangerous.
It’s a tidy story and I enjoyed it overall, but I found Mable’s fancies were more irritating than endearing, and although I admired her convictions I wasn’t really drawn in. I do think that it would suit a tween audience very well, so maybe I’m just too old to appreciate Mable and her quirks!
3/5 for me!