Review: The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell

19th September 2012

*I bought this book for my Nook Color.

From Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the Glendoveer mansion, where her mother is a servant to the kind and elderly matron of the house. In fact, she’s confined to the grand estate due to a mysterious heart condition. But it’s a comfortable life, and if it weren’t for the creepy squawking birds in the aviary out back, a completely peaceful one too.

But once old Mrs. Glendoveer passes away, Clara comes to learn many dark secrets about the family. The Glendoveers suffered a horrific tragedy: their children were kidnapped, then drowned. And their father George Glendoveer, a famous magician and illusionist, stood accused until his death. As Clara digs deeper and deeper into the terrifying events, the five birds in the aviary seem to be trying to tell her something. And Clara comes to wonder: what is their true identity? Clara sets out to solve a decades-old murder mystery—and in doing so, unlocks a secret in her own life, too. Kathleen O’Dell deftly weaves magic, secret identities, evil villians, unlikely heroes, and the wonder of friendship into a mystery adventure with all the charm of an old fashioned classic.

A few weekends ago, it was storming outside in ways it hadn’t all summer. Thunder and lightning filled the sky, and Miss Maddie was trying to mold herself to my side. I wanted a “dark and stormy” book and considered re-reading the first Harry Potter or A Wrinkle in Time, but I’ve re-read both within the last year and wanted something different. I put out the call on Twitter and got enough recommendations that I began a Rainy Day Reads shelf on Goodreads. Then I remembered The Book Smugglers reviewed The Aviary a while back, mentioning what a lovely little book it is. I looked for it on my Nook and bought it.

Aside from the lovely, chinoiserie-like cover, The Aviary itself is, as The Book Smugglers said, lovely. Clara is a little adult. Raised among three grown women, she is wise beyond her years and oh so lonely. At 12, she’s also beginning to question her mother’s judgment. For instance, if Clara has a heart condition, why doesn’t she get winded running down the stairs? And why can’t she at least have a friend? When friendship comes in the form of spirited, bubbly Daphne, Clara blossoms. The two are incredibly different, but they are curious and smart and adventurous, leaving notes for one another and organizing a secret communication system. Neither is willing to accept the secrets as old and dead or the rumors as simply gossip. They want to figure out just what happened to the Glendoveer children, and though they are timid and nervous at times, Daphne and Clara push one another until the secrets give way.

Though the mystery at the heart of the novel is pretty evident (I had to remind myself I’m not super smart, I’m just not eight), the path Daphne and Clara take to get there is so fun. There’s magic, but it isn’t a whole new world, and magic isn’t what saves the day. In fact, magic is the cause of the biggest conflict in the book. Ultimately, it’s a book of women, strong women – and from Mrs. Glendoveer to Clara and her mother, Daphne, and the cook Ruby, each plays a part in setting the secrets of Glendoveer mansion free.

Add this book to your Goodreads shelf.

  • I love the Rainy Day shelf idea. Such a great idea! Except, it hardly ever rains here in So Cal so I think it would collect a bit of dust 🙂 I love, love, love the cover of this book and the story sounds charming.

    • I can’t imagine that. I don’t want it to rain daily, but I do love a good t-storm. It rains heavily in fall and spring, so I definitely want to add to the shelf. 🙂

  • Can I just say that I know EXACTLY what you mean about dark and stormy kinds of books? There is just something about those kinds of books and I could never explain it but that dark and stormy label does the trick in m y head. There are just those books that HAVE to be read on a rainy day. Must be the mood or something of those types of books. I was that way with Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. I am going to be checking out that shelf of yours on GR!

    This book sounds fabulous! I think middle grade age Jamie would have fell in love with this one so hard. But I think old Jamie of here will enjoy it just the same. I have this thing for books that take place in mansions — one of those rainy day settings for me! lol And can I say I love the cover of this one!

    Great review! Never heard of this one but it’s on my radar!

    • Well, A Wrinkle in Time starts off that way, and I just thought it was a perfect way to describe that kind of book. I don’t want to read lit fic on a rainy day, though I certainly couldn’t explain to you why. Oh, and Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel are SO good. Please tell me you’ve seen the film version of Rebecca? If not, save it for the next dark and stormy.

      And yes, this book was fantastic. I read another, Unspoken, recently and wanted to love it but didn’t. It didn’t feel the same. It didn’t have that magical “take me away from my troubles” sort of feel. This did. And yes, the cover is fantastic.

      So glad you dropped by!


    Jenn, I just had to stop by and tell you how perfectly that book cover matches your blog!!

    • Hahaha! That’s so funny. I guess it does. No wonder I’m so fond of it.

  • Namine Mai

    sounds like a good read to save for a stormy day!

  • I hadn’t heard of this but it sounds like a perfect book for me! Luckily we have MONTHS of dark and stormy coming up soon. 🙂

    • See? Not so bad after all, and yes, I think this is one you’d really like.

  • Charlie

    I was wondering why the answer to the mystery was in the summary, if it’s for children then I suppose it’s no spoiler for us. I have to say I love the sound of it, it reminds me of some of the books in the library when I was younger.

  • Love the cover — it looks like a fabu read for my rainy November.

  • kiss a cloud

    Hi Jenn! Some days I need a dark and stormy book myself. I haven’t heard of this book before but it sounds perfect. There are just days when I want to be my little girl self and am not in the mood for Proust-y books.

  • Sounds like a good one. Please do share some rainy day reads. I generally like them anyway, but around fall and Halloween, I crave them! We have a pumpkin carving day and I read Edgar Allen Poe aloud to everyone present. I don’t think everyone loves it. But I do!

  • This one sounds lovely. I like the idea of rainy day reads – I have lots of days when I feel like rereading Harry Potter or A Wrinkle in Time (I’m actually rereading Harry Potter right now!) and it would be nice to have a rainy day reads shelf!

    • Yes! I need to go on and add the other recommendations I’ve gotten because that way I can go straight to that shelf and know what to get from the library or on my Nook. Enjoy the HP reread. I reread those last summer during our one rainy week, and it was heaven.