Belladonna
A lyrical coming-of-age story about a boy, a girl, and a horse - and how a chance encounter can lead to a life of intrigue and learning, a life beyond imagining.When Thomas Rose first spots the girl hidden by the roadside, she looks as drab as a lark, with only her red kerchief giving her away. But French Hélène, who goes by "Ling," is no ordinary bird. Tiny Ling enchants Thomas with her wild spirit and tales of a circus where she danced atop her beloved horse, Belladonna. But the horse has been sold, and Ling must fetch her back. Now Thomas’s life as a clever but unschooled wheelwright’s son is about to change. Their search leads to painter George Stubbs, who euthanizes ailing animals in order to study their anatomy. Stubbs draws eerie horses that stride as if they could move out of the paper world into the real one - but he assures his young friends that their horse is safe at a nearby estate. As Ling and Thomas devise a risky plan to recover Belladonna, Stubbs hires Thomas as an apprentice, teaching him to read and write as well. In this fascinating story, Mary Finn incorporates a real eighteenth-century artist into a beautifully imagined tale of adventure and young romance.

Belladonna Details

TitleBelladonna
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 14th, 2011
PublisherCandlewick Press
ISBN-139780763651060
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Fiction, Animals, Horses, Romance

Belladonna Review

  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    I know that most history teachers dislike historical fiction because it's often not true to the time period, and that inserting fictional characters into real events skews the history parts. While there are a few "real" people in Belladonna, they're not people readers in the target age group are likely to have heard of and the setting is not a big, known city but a rural village.What I think will attract readers is that the main character, Thomas, has difficulty learning but has a good visual se I know that most history teachers dislike historical fiction because it's often not true to the time period, and that inserting fictional characters into real events skews the history parts. While there are a few "real" people in Belladonna, they're not people readers in the target age group are likely to have heard of and the setting is not a big, known city but a rural village.What I think will attract readers is that the main character, Thomas, has difficulty learning but has a good visual sense and can easily draw mouths saying different letters. Anyone who does not do well with rote memorization will sympathize and identify with him. Also, boys will love the grossness of his apprenticeship with Mr. Stubbs and the anatomical drawings of the dead horse. Where the book has problems is in scope: too much is going on. There's Stubbs and the horses, there's Ling/Helene and her Lipizzaner, Belladonna, there's a press-gang incident, a nearly mute luthier, learning to read, class issues... see where I'm going? Sometimes I felt as though the author was so eager to put more 'reality' in the book that it got muddied. ARC provided by publisher.
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  • Chelsea
    January 1, 1970
    Fifteen-year-old Thomas Rose has already come to grips with the fact that his life is on the verge of change, but when he meets a girl named Ling, he know for sure that things will never be the same again. She is searching for a white horse named Belladonna, the same equine she used to dance atop at the circus. When Belladonna was sold, Ling swore she would never dance again until she found her. With Thomas' help, they just might be able to do that. As well as a lot of growing up along the way, Fifteen-year-old Thomas Rose has already come to grips with the fact that his life is on the verge of change, but when he meets a girl named Ling, he know for sure that things will never be the same again. She is searching for a white horse named Belladonna, the same equine she used to dance atop at the circus. When Belladonna was sold, Ling swore she would never dance again until she found her. With Thomas' help, they just might be able to do that. As well as a lot of growing up along the way, too.Belladonna is not an easy book to read, but a rather rewarding one if you do. I will tell you up front that from the cover and synopsis, I was totally expecting (and hoping!) to get a circus story. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all. However, though it is not my desired circus show, this novel was very rich with the atmosphere of mid-eighteenth century life. Ling is a fabulous character, and wise beyond her years. She felt both like the girl-next-door and exotic at the same time. By comparison, Tom was bland and uninteresting. The writing is a little dry and difficult to plow through for the average YA reader, but for those who stick with it, Mary Finn delivers a delightful gem of a tale.
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  • Kellia
    January 1, 1970
    I think that the characters were not really developed metally although they went through some big life changes.Thomas Rose still seem like a love-struck 14 year-old at the end of the book although many people felt like he has truely became a man.I felt that the only changes was his circumstances.He found a direction in life I feel that becoming George Stubbs' apparentice was just his way of escaping his family trade.I just felt like Thomas vas not very developed metally.His condition of dylexia I think that the characters were not really developed metally although they went through some big life changes.Thomas Rose still seem like a love-struck 14 year-old at the end of the book although many people felt like he has truely became a man.I felt that the only changes was his circumstances.He found a direction in life I feel that becoming George Stubbs' apparentice was just his way of escaping his family trade.I just felt like Thomas vas not very developed metally.His condition of dylexia was a very interesting topic and i felt like i reqlly wanted to know more about his inner thoughts through his notebook,which I felt was very interesting.The author also failed to elaborate on that and Thomas' condition just became an insignificant fact in the story.As for Ling,sh e was a very interesting character but there was always a myterious vibe about her from the very beginning,I felt like Ling was taking advantage of Thomas interest in her to help her find Belladonna.Throung the middle of the story,however,I do believe that Ling developed true feelings for Thomas as I believe that Ling truely have a loving soul as we could see in the story that she was so determined and willing to go all the way to get Belladonna back.In my opinion,Ling was a very complex character.She knows how to fake her feelings so well that it was difficult to know when she was being herself.She also have amazing ability to enchant people with her stories,songs and dances this however would make me feel wary of her.Thoughout the whole story the clearest part of Ling was her love for Belladonna,which was a good point about the character as the book's direction was to finding the horse.However,other than this particular aspect,I did not feel that Ling have changed or developed much in the book,however,her character remained as blurry and unreadable as how she was in the beginning of the story.George Stubbs was a character I was really dissapointed in as I thought that he would be a character that would lead to a really wonderful climax of the story.However I felt that the character was wasted for only being a 'bridge' for Ling to find Belladonna and Thomas to find a direction in life.The character's mentallity of his own profession was also not elaborated well enough and he becomes a character that was forgotten after a while and just blends into the backgroung withe othe charaters.The boy whom Ling coached was also not well elaborated.He seemed to have a potential of becoming a very complex and interesting a character in the story but I did not see the author put in any signicant purpose to him.Thomas's little sister should have been more involved in the story too.I think that she ca created a good twist with one of the side characters and involving how sbe changed at the end of the story would have spiced up in ending and make it less bland and more complete.The incidents in the book mostly annoyed me.I appreciate that the author was trying to make the story more interesting by including more incidents but in almost every icident the author just 'abandons' the incident and turned the focus to the next incident and so on.This makes it very obvious that the author seem like she is trying too hard to squeeze things into the story in vain to make it more interesting and making the story seem unrealistic and undeveloped.I felt that the story would have been a lot better if the author just focused more on the main point and weaving these little incidents into it so that the whole story seems more focused and connected rather than being scattered around all over the place.The story was also quite boring from beginning till end and the was no significant incident to thrill the readers or give more insight into the respective characters.I personally dislike the ending of the story.The fact that Ling and Thomas was together in the end wasn't a sastisfactory ending for me.I felt that Thomas should let go of Ling if he truelly has grown.I felt that Ling was only a learning point in his life and the idea of 'forever' doesn't really sound possible between Thomas and Ling.This was also probably because their love for each othe were not really projected in the story and when was,as I have said earlier,Thomas just seem like a love-struck 14 year-old and I felt that his feelings for Ling was more of lust than just pure love.Ling till the very end,still made me quite skeptical.Her love for Thomas might real but I always get the feeling that she still have not let Thomas know all of herself.The ending would have been more meaningful and realistic the they decide to let each other go despite their attraction to each other which will probably just be a incident they eventually pass by in life,with fond memories.It would been better to go their seperate ways and start anew.As mentioned before,the ending was also not well elaborated and the other characters should be more involved in not only the ending but also the body of the story.In conclusion,the idea of the story was great it it wasn't well developed.It would be a very exciting story if the search for Belladonna was harder,providing more chances for readers to understand Thomas' and Ling's love for each other and for the ideas of the extra incidents to be part of their journey will also help.The plot,interactions and characters of the story are blurry and bland.I personally do not enjoy the book much.It was difficult to read on for it is boring and at certain times I have hopes for a climax but it just fades to nothingness again.The story was not vivid enough for me to 'go in' to the book.Would not recommend this book to people who who are looking a thrilling journey or adventure to find a horse or some similar.Its more for people who like a simple read.
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  • Lauren Stone
    January 1, 1970
    The Horse Girl has a lovely style about it, but I felt like it went on just a little too long to be engaging. I liked the history woven into it, particularly about Stubbs. Bit of style over substance perhaps? Took a while to get used to the narrative voice too...
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  • Angie Quantrell
    January 1, 1970
    The beautiful poetic language and images kept me wishing I had a chance to write down some phrases! Wonderful story, gruesome in bits, sad in other places. Great read!
  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    Slow moving and thinly viewed romance.The historical information took huge liberties.
  • Mara
    January 1, 1970
    This book had potential, but the Author failed to play into it. I had pretty high hopes, too, and in the end I was disappointed. To start with the pros, Thomas is likable, and the Author has a good writing style. She can effectively write accents without it making the character sound simple-minded. The Author clearly has an understanding of horses, too, and she plays around with a couple of interesting historical figures.But. While Thomas is likable, his constant litany of Ling's beauty gets rea This book had potential, but the Author failed to play into it. I had pretty high hopes, too, and in the end I was disappointed. To start with the pros, Thomas is likable, and the Author has a good writing style. She can effectively write accents without it making the character sound simple-minded. The Author clearly has an understanding of horses, too, and she plays around with a couple of interesting historical figures.But. While Thomas is likable, his constant litany of Ling's beauty gets really annoying, to the point where I actually started dreading when he would meet up with Ling, because I knew Thomas would spend all of his narration time talking about the smoothing of her skin, the bright beauty of her eyes, blah, blah, blah. I don't mind if a character is attracted to another one - not usually, - but a character can talk about their attraction far too much. As for Ling, I am still divided on my opinion about her. She's a strong heroine and she's not flirty, but her personality is flighty - she's here and there, and her mood swings get a little tiring.And there is, of course, the glaring and important fact that the storyline is completely missing. Reading the synopsis, one might think: Oh! A missing horse! Two young people who have to go rescue her! That sounds exciting! Well, I'm sorry to inform you that it isn't. Nothing about Belladonna's disappearance is sinister, and the whole process of finding her and retrieving her was not especially hard to do, and therefore unexciting. The majority of the book is spent with Thomas and Ling talking, Thomas being all mooney-eyed, and day-to-day descriptions of village life.As for writing style and technique, the Author has a nice writing style. However, the Author's choice to intergrate so much French into the dialogue was a poor one, and here's why: there is hardly any translation and there is no glossary. Sometimes the Author uses the French words in a context that allows the Reader to understand the general idea of the word, and every once in a while there is an in-text translation. But over half the time the Reader is forced to skip huge chunks of dialogue, which makes for a very patchy and very frustrating read. So unless you know French, you'll get annoyed with the dialogue.
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  • Aubrey
    January 1, 1970
    I personally really enjoyed this book. The writing is smooth and not choppy, the storyline easily snatches you up and the action is constant, you're always wondering what will happen next.I love Ling with her fire and her personality and her independence. She has no problem speaking her mind and she will stop at nothing to get her horse, Belladonna, back. They share a special bond, having grown a strong friendship from their years performing in a circus. Ling has no problem sleeping in the stall I personally really enjoyed this book. The writing is smooth and not choppy, the storyline easily snatches you up and the action is constant, you're always wondering what will happen next.I love Ling with her fire and her personality and her independence. She has no problem speaking her mind and she will stop at nothing to get her horse, Belladonna, back. They share a special bond, having grown a strong friendship from their years performing in a circus. Ling has no problem sleeping in the stall with Belladonna, even perfers to sleep with her horse rather than in a fine house or anywhere else.The author uses some very entertaining vocabulary sometimes. I wish I'd kept a list! "Pasting" as in "give 'em a good pasting", "lolloping", and "whirrup" just to name a few.The author also covers quite a range of culture in 300+ pages. French, English, Romanian, circus performers, gypsies, fishermen....Nothing foul or suggestive that I ran across save for a few kisses (absolutely nothing explicit) and only one d--n. Quite a record for a book these days! :PThe one thing I would warn against is if you are sensitive to a little gore. Thomas is apprenticed to an anatomist who buys old horses who are on their last leg and essentially puts them to sleep and then studies their muscles, their bones, etc. It's not overly graphic but it does get a little hairy for someone who has a really sensitive stomach or is really sensitive to horses in general. As a horse owner myself, it was a little hard to swallow but at the same time, the horse is being put to sleep humanely rather than butchered and sold for its meat like some of the other horses at the market.Overall, I enjoyed the book and couldn't put it down. It's a quick read but you never feel bored. The different cultures and languages are very fun and fascinating to read and Ling is one awesome heroine.
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  • QNPoohBear
    January 1, 1970
    Sent back home to his native village after failing school, Thomas Rose finds a girl hidden in the grass. Curious, Thomas seeks her out. The girl's name is Hélène but in England she goes by Ling, for in 1757 France and England are at war (as usual). Spirited Ling has run away from her home in a traveling circus in search of her beautiful white horse, Belladonna on whose back she rode and did tricks. Belladonna is Ling's best friend and family and the loss of her horse tears Ling apart. She's dete Sent back home to his native village after failing school, Thomas Rose finds a girl hidden in the grass. Curious, Thomas seeks her out. The girl's name is Hélène but in England she goes by Ling, for in 1757 France and England are at war (as usual). Spirited Ling has run away from her home in a traveling circus in search of her beautiful white horse, Belladonna on whose back she rode and did tricks. Belladonna is Ling's best friend and family and the loss of her horse tears Ling apart. She's determined to find Belladonna and steal her back and enlists Thomas's aid. Thomas, besotted with the lively French girl, agrees to help. Their search for Belladonna brings them closer together and introduces Thomas to new people and new ideas. I expected to read a fun adventure tale but this novel is exactly the opposite. This is a coming-of-age novel for young Thomas as he learns to open his heart and his mind to love and acceptance. The prose is written in a lyrical, almost poetic way. I found it difficult to read and others may have a There are many characters and situations described so thoroughly that it sometimes bogged down the action of the story. hard time understanding the author's descriptions of things that are unfamiliar to Thomas. There is also quite a lot of French dialogue which the reader can guess by the context and some Romani (Gypsy) words too. The story is slow moving and there is not a lot of action. Thomas tells the reader of his feelings for Ling but I didn't feel there was much real chemistry between them but he was besotted by the exotic young woman. I'm not sure this book would appeal to the target age market but adults might enjoy it.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    Thomas has just been sent home from school, where he lived with his grandfather, to live with his parents again, when he finds a French girl hiding in a ditch. She is looking for her horse, Belladonna, who she claims was taken from her and sold to a butcher. The butcher is actually artist George Stubbs, who is using horse carcasses to draw images of their anatomy. Helene (who also goes by the name Ling) is a talented dancer and bareback rider. Thomas helps Ling track down her horse and begins to Thomas has just been sent home from school, where he lived with his grandfather, to live with his parents again, when he finds a French girl hiding in a ditch. She is looking for her horse, Belladonna, who she claims was taken from her and sold to a butcher. The butcher is actually artist George Stubbs, who is using horse carcasses to draw images of their anatomy. Helene (who also goes by the name Ling) is a talented dancer and bareback rider. Thomas helps Ling track down her horse and begins to fall in love with her.I thought I would like this a lot more than I did. The focus was not on Ling and her talents and the circus, however. It's more about Thomas coming of age, overcoming his learning disabilities and figuring out what he wants to do with his life and falling in love with a very charming girl. I felt like a lot of the background action got in the way of the real action. I had expected a book about the circus in the late 1700s and instead got more about Stubbs' work on horse anatomy.
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  • Phair
    January 1, 1970
    An odd story. I can't see it appealing to many teens. Not as much horse content as I'd hoped nor was the information about Stubbs' work as informative as I wanted either. The book would have done well to have endpapers with an illustration from Stubbs' anatomy or maybe some period pictures of haute ecole. I'd even have gone for a map of the area depicted in the book. The words were just not enough to make this a satisfying read.To me it felt a little fragmented with too many elements brought in An odd story. I can't see it appealing to many teens. Not as much horse content as I'd hoped nor was the information about Stubbs' work as informative as I wanted either. The book would have done well to have endpapers with an illustration from Stubbs' anatomy or maybe some period pictures of haute ecole. I'd even have gone for a map of the area depicted in the book. The words were just not enough to make this a satisfying read.To me it felt a little fragmented with too many elements brought in but not fully explored. I did not like Ling all that much. Her upbringing taught her to lie and fake emotions as required so I never fully trusted her even at the end.
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  • Leslie
    January 1, 1970
    The main character in this book is a 14 year old boy, Thomas, so I would think that would be the age and sex it would be geared toward but this book is almost like a romance too between Thomas and Ling. I don't know many boys that age who would want to read a romance but I guess it would appeal to girls that age. There are some "real life" characters this book such as the famous English painter of horses, George Stubbs.
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  • Digne
    January 1, 1970
    I expected more out of this. Really this should be given two and a half stars. I didn't dislike it but I didn't really like it either. While I liked the main character Thomas I found Ling to be rather annoying. I like to have heard more about the side characters George Stubbs and Esther. Both of whom I felt were thinly drawn. The plot seems to play out all too predictably and comfortably. That said, I enjoyed the author's voice and her historical research added lots of nice color.
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    This was an interesting story. Thomas, home in disgrace after book learning didn't work out, meets an enchanting young girl, Ling, on the side of the road. She weaves a sad tail about the selling of her beautiful horse, Belladonna, and her fears that the horse will be butchered. Their adventures take Thomas to places he never would have gone and help him to become a man.
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  • Lokien
    January 1, 1970
    A nice story if a bit flirty wit wrong and right Vs. legal and illegal. The historical aspects were interesting and i love the intimate take on a bright person suffering with dyslexia. having my own personal battle with that cross, made this portrait all the more sharply felt and loveable.
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  • Sara
    January 1, 1970
    "Don't you know horses are the world's worriers, Thomas?" What a wonderful story, told beautifully.
  • Natasha
    January 1, 1970
    It was ehh. Not a fan of this kind of story.BUT the model on the cover is the same (I think) model on [Book: Brightly Woven]by Alexandra Bracken.just wanted to say that.
  • Kira
    January 1, 1970
    I love this book.
  • Allie
    January 1, 1970
    I liked the message in this book, but I ended up skimming a lot of pages because it was boring. Not one of my favorites, but I'm glad I read it.
  • Dawn
    January 1, 1970
    A little slow in parts but the attention and description of historical details was fabulous. The story is very sweet as well!
  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    I couldn't get through the first half. It didn't interest me enough. That either says something about this book, or my attention span. It's got to be the book.
  • Jodee Clark
    January 1, 1970
    Cute story about finding out who you really are and what you want to do. About friendship and love and survival.Based on some factual real people.
  • Sweetarge
    January 1, 1970
    yawn.
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Liking it so far!
  • Christine Meunier
    January 1, 1970
    Loved it! Unique story line, beautiful cover and intriguing story! More at http://equus-blog.com/belladonna/
  • Zofia
    January 1, 1970
    I think it was a really good story, and I love the author's style of writing. :-D
  • BCPL Youth Services Librarian
    January 1, 1970
    Click to see book in BCPL's online catalog
  • Grace
    January 1, 1970
    Really good! I loved the entire thing it was so interesting and kept you on your toes :)
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