When Thomas Rose stops at the edge of the road because he sees a mysterious red handkerchief, he has no idea that his life is about to change. Formerly known as the slow and stupid one who lacks the brains for schoolwork and the patience to help his father at home, Thomas finds his whole world shaken apart when he meets the beautiful Helene, known as Ling. Ling tells Thomas magical tales of her life as a performer in France, and especially of her fantastic white horse, Belladonna, who was taken from her. She convinces Thomas to help her find her horse and return it to her. In their efforts to locate Belladonna, the pair meets Mr. Stubbs, an anatomist and painter. He takes Thomas under his wing and offers to teach him the tricks of his trade. Thomas finds his whole world changing as he learns not only to read and write but to understand the way animal and human bodies function. Through Thomas and Ling's journey to find Belladonna, the two learn more about themselves and each other in this touching coming-of-age narrative.
Belladonna, by Mary Finn, is an eloquently written book with imaginative characters and a heart-warming storyline. The characters are very relatable and life-like, and I felt empathy for their struggles and triumphs throughout this book. However, the plot was at times less than exciting and left me struggling to keep reading. Despite this, I enjoyed the encouraging tone this book sets for those struggling to find their place in life, like Thomas. I would recommend this book to historical fiction lovers, but I would caution future readers that it takes some determination to finish the book. Belladonna is by no means exhilarating, but offers a fresh storyline and interesting characters.
Reviewer City, State and Country: Bayside, WI USA