Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Book Report/The Tale of Hill Top Farm

In 1905, a few short weeks after her fiancé died, Beatrix Potter bought Hill Top Farm in the Lake District of England. In the eight years thereafter, she visited often but did not settle there until 1913 when she married William Heelis. Susan Wittig Albert is writing a cozy mystery for each of these eight years. They are called The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and the first in the series, published in 2004, is The Tale of Hill Top Farm. This is my second reading of the book, and this time I listened to an unabridged audiobook read by Virginia Leishman.

The author spent a lot of time researching Beatrix Potter for this series, and the book is a fascinating combination of real life and fantasy. Not only does Miss Potter seem exactly right, but Albert has the animals talk. I think in my heart of hearts I have always hoped that they do talk to one another, and that they try talking to us, but we just can't hear them. This device in the novel works. It isn't cutesy. Rather it is just matter of fact; of course they talk.

There is a mystery, but mostly the book is about the area, village life, and Beatrix Potter. It couldn't be more pleasant. The author has a really beautiful and informational website with maps, descriptions, and drawings.

Like the English-country-life novels of Miss Read and Angela Thirkell, Albert's Beatrix Potter books are balm for the soul and entertaining forerunners to a good night's sleep.
Richmond Times-Dispatch


  1. Nan, I watched the movie, Miss Potter, this weekend and enjoyed seeing the Lake District where Beatrix vacationed and eventually lived. (I also loved the costumes.) I know Albert's Web site and she has a weekly email newsletter on herbs that is interesting but I've never read any of her books, thinking as you refute--they were cutesy. I admire Beatrix for her determination to be herself during a time when women were expected to do what they were told. She was quite a land conservationist as well. This is funny, I was going to recommend Albert's Web site to you!

  2. What an interesting sounding series! Nan, I'm glad you enjoyed the potatoes! I'm going to have to make those again.

  3. Catherine Mary, I loved the movie, but I've since read it is very inaccurate (actually from Albert's comment on the movie at amazon!). That's okay with me; it was still good. I have always been so taken with Beatrix Potter for her love of the country life. I learned in this book that though the Herdwick sheep were becoming less popular because people were putting in linoleum instead of wool carpets, she decided she would keep some because they were so well suited to their place, as she felt she would be in the Lake District.

    Tara, I'm quite sure you would enjoy the books. I'm starting on the second one soon. And thanks again for the potato recipe. I'll be making them often. :<)

  4. This definitely sounds like a series I'd enjoy. I'm making a trip to the library this afternoon to pick up a reserve, perhaps I'll wind up taking a Beatix Potter book, or two, home.

  5. Nan, I have read a couple of biographies of Beatrix Potter (though I've not yet seen the movie) but this sounds very different from any I've read. I will keep my eye out for it! Love the title. Something about the whole idea of Hill Farms is so appealing, isn't it? :)

  6. I have visited Hill Farm and took my children there when they were small. It was simply magical and my two adored the fact that models of little mice, and the cats and the frogs were placed in correct places around the house. The lake District is one of the most beautiful places on earth - if you can get away from the tourist of course (of which I was one so I should not be so snooty!!)

  7. We are "in-synch," Nan! I just picked up The Tale of Hill Top Farm, narrated by Virginia Leishman, from the library on the weekend! I know I'm going to love listening to them!

  8. I (as usual) have this book and the 2nd one in my TBR pile. Susan Wittig Albert is from my part of the country. She writes the Chyna Bayles mysteries and also she and her husband, Bill Crider, write together as Robin Paige a series set in Victorian/Edwardian England. I think they have completed that series.


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