Book Review: The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo (Catherine Johnson)

*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Corgi Childrens

Pages: 288

Release Date: July 2nd 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Set in the early nineteenth century, this is incredible story of the ultimate historical hustle, based on the true story of Mary Willcox. After a harrowing street attack, Mary makes a life-changing decision: to become Princess Caraboo. Speaking a language of her own devising, she manages to convince the respected Worrall family that she is just what she claims to be. Language professors, journalists and artists are captivated by Caraboo’s beauty and the story that surrounds her. But as her lies get bigger, so too does the risk involved in her deception, and when she begins to fall in love with seventeen-year-old Fred Worrall, Mary realizes that she can’t keep up her con forever, and that some stories can be very dangerous indeed…


I received a copy of this book as part of The Lady Caraboo blog tour, so big thanks to Ming and Corgi Children’s for the copy.I always feel a little anxious getting books to review, especially ones for a blog tour. It can sometimes be awkward getting that balance between wanting to promote a book and wanting to stay true to your feelings about it. I am always honest with my reviews, no matter where the books came from.

That was a sidetrack and not important because I completely loved this book!

The start was pretty brutal and it sets up the story perfectly. In that first short chapter you understand Mary’s motivations for what she does, and you’re completely on her side from the beginning. While her actions could be seen as wrong, you know she doesn’t mean any harm by it, and is just trying to escape herself a while.

I loved the contrast in characters in this book: on the one hand, you have Mary Wilcox, who has been through hell and back and knows true poverty and pain, and on the other, you have the Worralls, Fred and Cassandra in particular, whose ‘middle class problems’ seem so petty in comparison. I’m not saying that their problems are irrelevant, it just puts it into perspective against Mary’s past.

The idea of a poor girl convincing an upper class family that she is a lost princess is truly magical, and when I read the author’s note at the end and found it was based on a true story, I was even more intrigued. I’m definitely going to do some research into Caraboo’s story and read some more about her now.

This felt like quite a gentle read: everything moved at a nice, leisurely pace and I enjoyed seeing how the characters developed and the relationships formed. A favourite for me was Cassandra, whose flighty feelings changed as quickly as she changed her dresses and could have got her in a whole heap of trouble.

Things got a little heated when a certain character turned up and claimed to be able to understand Caraboo’s (made up) language. I didn’t see the problem at first and thought it was entertaining as they pretended to have conversations while speaking gibberish, but it soon took a darker turn and, like Caraboo, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen the danger coming.

I really wasn’t sure how things would turn out in the end: there were too many lies and too many strands tangled together to have a suitable solution for all, but it did all work itself in a way, although I wouldn’t say it ended happily for everyone. Mary/Caraboo is a character that you really root for, and I knew that, whatever happened, I wanted her to do well out of this.

Overall I think this is a really stunning book and a beautiful adaptation of Lady Caraboo’s story. I love books that inspire me to read more around the subject, and this one certainly has. I’d definitely recommend reading it, and I’m going to be checking out more of Catherine Johnson’s books in the near future.

My Verdict:

Copy of an art exhibit
Check out my guest post from Catherine Johnson here.

#RandomReads July Announcement


Hello and welcome back to #RandomReads with Stacie and Maia. If this is your first time joining us, this is where we randomly pick a theme each month and nominate a book for the other to read. We review the books and then have a bit of a discussion about them as well – feel free to join in with us by commenting/posting your own reviews in the comments and using #RandomReads on Twitter.
If you saw last month’s #RandomReads then welcome again and thanks for sticking with us!
And now, without further ado, the theme for July is…
(drum roll)

I was super excited when this was picked as our theme for July, as I had the perfect play in mind for Stacie. I studied theatre at school and then at university for four years, so I’ve read my fair share of plays – not all of them have been to my taste, but the one I’ve picked has been my favourite by far, and here it is…
(another drum roll)


The Wonderful World of Dissocia by Anthony Neilson

I think this is fun to read as well as perform (and I’ve done both!) and I hope Stacie will have a good laugh reading it, as well as finding it thought provoking. I think the second half may split opinion a little (it often does with audience/readers) but I really hope she enjoys it.
If you’d like to see what Stacie has picked for me then hop over to her blog to read her post.
Check back next week and the week after to see our reviews, and at the end of the month we’ll have our usual discussion posts.

Book Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle (Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell)

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Pages: 72

Release Date: October 23rd 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.


I thought this book was just wonderful.After reading Gaiman’s Hansel and Gretel a few weeks back, I was expecting something similar – a beautiful retelling of a classic story, but without much else added to it. While I enjoyed reading Hansel and Gretel, I did find it a little disappointing.

This book, however, was spot on.

The title suggests a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and there are elements of that in this story, but there’s also hints of Snow White and lashings of Gaiman’s own imagination too.

I loved that the story didn’t really follow the classic fairy tale format: the only prince mentioned was blown off by the Queen in the beginning, and it was the Queen who went on the dangerous journey to save a neighbouring kingdom and wake the sleeper. The twist at the end took me by surprise and was just another layer of excellence in this wonderful retelling.

The writing was really beautiful and the illustrations brought it to life perfectly: the level of detail was just incredible and added a really creepy element to the story. Some of the sleepers were straight out of nightmares and I didn’t like to linger on them too long. I loved the touch of gold in the illustrations, it really added something to it.

This was a really magical read that turned the slightly flat fairy tales of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty into complex stories with characters you really invest in. I’d love to see another story like this from Gaiman and Riddell.

My Verdict:

Copy of an art exhibit