Meggie Bloom has a gift, a gift that is a curse. She can read people's
thoughts. Her uncanny ability causes her nothing but trouble at
orphanage where she is sent to live after her foster mother dies.
Finally, desperate to rid themselves of this unusual young woman, they
send her to work at a sanitarium for the insane which is run by a member
of their order. Here Meggie's gift is invaluable in aiding the troubled
patients and under the kindly wing of Sister Agnes, Meggie finds a
place. But she dreams of a different and better life.
Lord Hugo Montague visits the sanitarium at the behest of his mother.
While there, he catches a glimpse of the beautiful, almost ethereal
Meggie. Sister Agnes tells Hugo Meggie's sad tale: that she could find
no place outside the sanitarium. Understandable, Hugo concluded that
Meggie is an inmate.
Lord Hugo, the brother of a duke, is finally, at 26, settling down after
a tumultuous youth. He has lost and won a fortune at the gaming tables
and now chooses to purchase an estate in Sussex. However, one of the
provisions of the sale requires Hugo to continue to give a home to two
elderly female relatives of the previous owner. Now a property owner,
Hugo decides to fully embrace respectability and find a wife. But while
in London, he gets involved in one last game of chance and loses all he
had won. Faced with ruin, he concludes that his only recourse is to wed
the obnoxious heiress who has set her cap for him. But while he is at
his lawyer's discussing settlements, he overhears a conversation about a
missing heiress and realizes that it can only be Meggie Bloom.
And so he hurries to the sanitarium to convince the young woman to marry
him. Of course, Hugo's misapprehension about his new wife's mental
health leads to misunderstandings. But he finds that despite her
"affliction" she is a warm and loving woman, and begins to wonder if,
once free of the sanitarium, she might not regain her health. Meggie,
on the other hand, concludes from what Hugo says that he does not want a
smart wife, and seeks to live down to his expectations. The fact that
she cannot read Hugo's mind leaves her unaware of his misconceptions
about her mental state.
Hugo and Meggie settle down at his estate, and he arranges for the
lawyers to discover who Meggie really is. But as he becomes fonder and
fonder of the lovely, free-spirited woman he has married, he feels
guiltier and guiltier about his deception.
Kingsley has devised a clever plot with just the kind of originality
which makes her such a good storyteller. Meggie is, from the start, an
appealing heroine. Hugo takes some warming up to. At the outset, he
seems selfish and immature, but he grows and matures over the course of
the story till one really roots for him at the end. The two female
relatives – the aunties – are delightful creations who add welcome humor
to the story.
Call Down the Moon is by way of a sequel to Kingsley's 1997
release, Once upon a Dream. It is nice to revisit the characters
from that book briefly, although this book easily stands alone. I
recommend Kingsley's latest without hesitation. But one thing worries
me. Once upon a Dream was clearly a retelling of the Cinderella
story and I keep wondering if this new book also has its roots in a
fairy tale, too. If it does, I can't place it. So, if any of you
readers out there can figure out if Kingsley has based this book some
fable or another, please let me know.