“….at your age, it is not uncommon to be seized with a frightful restlessness….So many things become a source of dissatisfaction. Your heart can pull you in different directions, and you must decide the right way to go.”
When I first picked up The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell and read the synopsis, I wasn’t entirely sure that it qualified as a GU novel. There didn’t appear to be any adversary, for instance, which is a crucial element of the archetype. However, I went with my instincts and I’m glad I did, because not only was an adversary eventually revealed, but overall it was a very enjoyable and original story.
Clara, 11, has been kept indoors her whole life due to a weak heart, not even allowed to have any friends (it being around the end of the 19th century, this wasn’t so strange). Because of this, the entire plot takes place within one house, like many of my favorite GU stories – and it’s a beautiful, if crumbling, old Victorian house too. Clara’s mother is the housekeeper for Mrs. Glendoveer, the elderly lady who owns the house, whose death sets into motion a complicated and mysterious set of events. At the center of the mystery are a group of pet birds of all different sorts, who live in an aviary in the garden. One day they begin talking to Clara, and they soon reveal the dark history of the Glendoveer family, whose children were kidnapped and drowned fifty years ago.
At first Clara is just determined to solve the mystery of the last child, who was never found, but eventually she is pulled into a larger plot, and discovers she is actually part of it. Her mother being distant as she strives to keep Clara locked away, Clara relies on her secret new friend Daphne to help rescue her imprisoned father and free the birds. They discover the adversary (the original kidnapper of the children), and confront him and his minion. Daphne is temporarily mesmerized into submission, so Clara must face him alone.
In the end, not only does Clara accomplish all her tasks, but she also steps into a totally new life, with a complete family, friends, and freedom.