Thursday, February 23, 2012
Book review: A Girl for All Time: Matilda's Secret by Sandra Goldbacher
This book is written in the form of a diary kept by the main character, thirteen-year-old Matilda, who is the fictional cousin of Katherine Howard. Matilda's family is poor, even though they are related to nobility and have a big house and servants. Katherine's uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, offers to help the family out financially if Matilda's parents send one of their daughters to court. Matilda is chosen because she is able to be quiet and observant. Uncle Norfolk wants her to be a friend to Katherine and help her attract the attention of the king, Henry VIII, who is unhappy with his current wife, Anne of Cleves.
At first, Matilda is overwhelmed by life at court. Most of the other girls look down upon her. However, she and Katherine quickly become friends, and Katherine helps her out by giving her fashionable clothes to wear, and making the other girls be nice to her. With Matilda's help, Katherine is soon noticed by the king, who divorces his current wife so he can marry Katherine. At first Katherine loves the jewels and fancy gowns, but she soon becomes resentful that she cannot be with Thomas, the boy she loves. Matilda is terrified because she knows that if the king discovers that Katherine is in love with someone else, terrible things could happen to Katherine and even everyone in her household, including Matilda.
Matilda's Secret is the first book in a new series from England called A Girl for All Time. Each book will be about a different girl from the same family during various important times in British history. Like the American Girls series, there will be dolls of each main character. However, judging by the content in this book, this series seems intended for slightly older readers than the American Girls series, since there are references to torture, executions, infidelity, and many unpleasant facts of life in the sixteenth century. The descriptions are not extremely graphic, but I do think the subject matter makes the book more appropriate for preteens and young teens, rather than younger readers. I think this book would be enjoyed by the same readers who enjoy similar series, such as the My Story, Dear America, and Royal Diaries series.