Friday, 7 August 2015

The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo - Book Review

The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo
Cathrine Johnson
YA Historical
UK Publisher: Corgi Childrens Books


Cassandra Worrell is beautiful, rich and very, very bored. Trapped in her parents stately home, she dreams of escape. Life suddenly becomes much more interesting with the appearance of a beautiful, disorientated young woman, who speaks a mysterious language… 

Cassandra is convinced she’s found a Princess from a far away land. Could the Princess hold the key to the adventure she’s been seeking? Or might the escape she desires be found in the arms of wholly inappropriate but utterly delectable local boy, Will Jenkins?


This book was a really nice read, and I was both surprised and delighted to find out that it based around a true story. 

At the beginning of the 1800s, Mary Willcox, a low born daughter of a cobbler, managed to convince the wealthy Worrell family that she was in fact, a kidnapped Javanese princess named Caraboo. Her story soon spread across all of southern England and she hoodwinked many people, academics and scientists alike, with her made up language, actions and prayers. Although she was eventually proven to be a fraud, she managed to enjoy many months of luxury through the Worrell’s kindness. 

 However while the author has added characters, embellished and even completely changed parts of the original story, she was also kind enough to include some information about the real Mary Willcox at the end of the book which was quite fascinating. 

However I enjoyed Cathrine Johnson’s version, The Curious Tales of Lady Caraboo very much. The story begins with Mary Willcox, alone and helpless on the road where she is soon attacked by a band of men. Swearing that she will never be so helpless again, she decides to change her whole persona and becomes the Princess Caraboo - a fearless, warrior princess who hunts with a bow and arrow, climbs trees and is never ashamed to meet anyones eye.

Yet when she is taken in by the Worrells, a local and very wealthy family, Mary’s ploy for a hot meal and bed soon becomes bigger than even she anticipated. Soon the whole county is talking about this mysterious Princess Caraboo who speaks no english and enchants all she meets. 

But when a old sea captain turns up at the house, pretending to understand Caraboo’s every word and spinning even more illustrious stories of how she came to be in England, Mary knows the game will soon be up. The sea captain has his own motives for going along with her ploy, and Mary suspects he intends to relieve the Worrell’s of their more pricey possessions. But to uncover the truth about the captain will mean uncovering the truth about herself, and now her small act may just cost Mary her life…

The character, Mary Willcox is both interesting and complex. When she presents herself as Caraboo she is strong and determined, yet soon as she lets herself think of her old self, just plain old Mary Wilcox from Devon, she becomes mousey and insecure. However as the story progresses, I think Mary begins to accept that Caraboo is not just a figure of her imagination, but just a part of her that she never before had the freedom to be.

Yet Caraboo has an impact upon everyone she meets. For Mrs. Worrell, Caraboo brings down a storm of attention and intrigue to her home, putting Mrs. Worrell high in the realms of envy among her socialite friends. While for her children, Cassandra and Fred, Caraboo is a distraction from their mundane lives. She also opens up their minds to the vastness of the world and teaches them that its ok to break out of the mould every once and a while.

Overall I thought Lady Caraboo’s story was very thought provoking and I enjoyed this book very much. 3 1/2 stars!

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