April 4, 2013
Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman
Alchemy and Meggy Swann
by Karen Cushman
Meggy doesn’t know why she’s been brought to the crowded, filthy streets of London. Her father did send for her, but she’s never met him, not once in her entire life. Why would he send for her now?
When she does meet him, it doesn’t go particularly well. He’s expecting his new assistant to be a son and a son who can stride through the streets of London. Not only is Meggy a girl, she is a girl who must lean on two sticks to walk. Meggy’s strange waddling gait attracts enough attention that in her home village she was forced to stay out of sight lest the offend customers at the ale house run by her mother.
Fortunately, she has Roger, her father’s former assistant. Roger teaches her how to navigate London’s sometimes crowded always filthy streets. Meggy learns that there are places she cannot go on her own where a man wouldn’t think twice about stealing from her and even knocking her down.
But Meggy also learns that there are people who appreciate her quick wit and sharp tongue. Before long, she’s made friends with the cooper across the street and a nearby printer. Both of them sometimes use her help and always have a kind word. Slowly, even her father seems to warm up a bit and he begins to let her help with his work — the quest to turn other metals into gold.
Unfortunately, making gold takes funds and to do this sometimes an alchemist has to take on morrally questionable jobs. Meggy knows that she must warn his target but how does a poor, crippled girl gain the ear of a Baron?
This is another book with some amazing twists and turns in the plot. You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out anything more because I refuse to give away all of Cushman’s secrets.
As always, Cushman has done an amazing amount of research in pulling together this tale. Meggy is a sharp witted and sharp tongued heroine who holds her own in a world that has little sympathy for the weak or incapable but fortunately she also has help.
I listened to this one as an audio book and this would be a great family “read” for a car trip. With both strong boy and girl characters, this book will appeal to readers of either gender although the appeal for girls will be more obvious. History lovers, thespians and those with an eye for science will all find something to love in this particular story.