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A Little Ditty...
on 10 May 2014
It had been suggested to me more than once that I should read some of Valerie Wood’s novels. They are mostly set in the region where I currently live, East Yorkshire and The Humber. They are also historical in nature, usually focusing on Victorian, working class families.
My mother-in-law lent me a handful of them, and first I embarked upon “The Innkeeper’s Daughter”. Less than two chapters in, however, I put it aside. Colloquial dialogue often grates on me (I recall first coming to despise it as I read “Huckleberry Finn” in high school), and for some reason that novel seemed to be squeezing it in whenever possible; really overemphasizing it. I very nearly called my forage into the world of Valerie Wood quits after that experience, but I was eager to learn the appeal of her works. I chose “The Songbird” from the pile and gave her one more try.
"Songbird" is not a bad novel. It’s a bit of fluff; and a pleasant bit of fluff if indeed it’s fluff you’re after. Poppy is a young singer from Hull who wants to make it in the theatre. Her mother is dead and her father runs a coffee shop in town. She is madly in love with her brother’s best friend before imparting upon her career. The people she meets along the way will open her eyes, but just like Dorothy, she also learns to truly appreciate her home and those who love her.
The writing isn’t grand, yet it’s very readable. I believe that most of Wood’s dedicated readers are also from the Hull area and simply love to see their familiar haunts incorporated into a story. Wood certainly does her history, and is eager to show off her knowledge. I felt at times that she was inserting location details that were irrelevant to the story, purely for this “travelogue” type purpose.
It was all very twee and tied bow-like at the end. Wood’s readers do seem to love a happy ending. In conclusion, I believe I have found the simple magic of her appeal - a bit of nostalgia, a light and decent romance, and a map of Humberside. Personally, I don’t feel I have time to spend on any more of her quaint creations; but I wouldn’t frown upon those who enjoy a nice, warm-hearted story to cozy up with on a night.