The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman

***SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't read the first two books in the Sally Lockhart trilogy - especially The Shadow in the North - I highly recommend you not read this review. I really can't talk about The Tiger in the Well without giving away one vital piece of information from the previous novels. So. Now you've been properly warned. But may I ask why haven't you read this series already?

Upon finishing The Shadow in the North, I can only say that my poor heart had been reduced to millions of teeny, tiny little pieces in the face of Sally's heartbreak and the death of her best friend and fiance Fred Garland. I was shocked and stunned to say the least. But I just couldn't stomach leaving poor Sally and friends in such a lurch so I hesitantly sat down with the next installment, The Tiger in the Well, fiercely determined that Sally would get her happy ending.

In the two years since Fred's death Sally has been left to raise their daughter, Harriet, alone. But her life has not been altogether unhappy. Her business has prospered and can rely on her many friends for support. In a matter of minutes however, this framework of happiness comes crashing down when Sally is being sued for divorce and custody of Harriet from a certain Mr. Parrish - a man she has never even met. Determined to combat her enemy's outrageous bluff, Sally turns to the law for help only to discover that he has created a paper trail of lies, spanning years, which only serves to tighten the noose around Sally. Most frustrating is that Sally doesn't even know why someone has set out to destroy her entire life. Finally forced to flee penniless and alone, Sally attempts to solve her most daring mystery yet. And failure is out of the question.

I thought all my fear and pain for Sally had been effectively wrenched out of me by the end of the previous book, but as I watched Sally face bitter disappointment in the face of yet another dead-end, it all came rushing back. Time and again I watched Sally's options dwindle into nothing as she desperately fights to figure out who is trying to destroy her happiness. Even more forceful is the injustice of Sally's vulnerability in the face of a prejudiced society against an unmarried woman with a child. Suffice to say, this one was a doozy.

I was intensely disappointed to discover that Jim (or Fred for that matter) does not have a starring role in this last book. In all fairness, it couldn't have been the same story if Jim had been present, but still. My poor little heart was left missing him something fierce. Somewhat interesting is the curious subplot Pullman inserts on the plight of Jewish immigrants and socialism - which on the surface seem to be incredibly random topics to be sticking into a young adult Victorian mystery, but there you have it. If anyone can make such a crazy tangent work, it would have to be Philip Pullman.

series reading order:
~ The Ruby in the Smoke - my review
~ The Shadow in the North - my review
~ The Tiger in the Well
~ The Tin Princess (companion novel)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Firefly's Book Blog review
PhlioBiblos review

book source: purchased


Angiegirl said...

It's a wild ride, isn't it? This one is different from the other two. But then Sally is different as well. Did you like Daniel?

Michelle said...

Angie - Yeah, it wasn't at all like the previous two books. But still I liked it, I was just so worried for 90% of it still. I do like Daniel tho. He's no Fred, but still a good match for Sally. I just find it interesting that Pullman has to end every series with a treatise on some topic - religion, poverty, etc.

Angiegirl said...

Yep. He's got a problem with that.