From Publishers Weekly
Dingley Dell is a self-contained valley peopled by orphans, whose guardians abandoned them with only an encyclopedia and the works of Charles Dickens. From these beginnings comes a Victorian society whose limited trade with outsiders raises more question than it answers. Those who leave rarely return or are considered mad. The beginning drags a bit as the residents try to figure out what the reader already knows, but the tide turns and comes in fast once a runaway returns to the valley. Scribe-for-hire Trimmers and his friends, amateur sleuths disguised as a poetry society, discover that their strange world will come to a quick and bloody end unless they act. This sometimes perplexing but well-executed tale winds up feeling like a surprisingly hardy crossbreed of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Eric Flint's 1632. (Dec.)
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*Starred Review* Dickens lovers, rejoice! Dunn (Ella Minnow Pea, 2002) folds a nineteenth-century writing style into a delightfully original story spiced with wonderfully evocative names and personalities from the Dickens oeuvre. Every word in this leisurely paced treasure is meant to be savored. Every scene is a theatrical masterpiece, providing plentiful opportunity to bark with laughter, raise eyebrows in amazement, and sigh in despair. Dingley Dell, hidden in backcountry Pennsylvania, proceeds in its anachronistic Victorian style as an experiment begun decades ago, when Darwinian scientists wanted to know how a small society would evolve, given no new input from the outside world. Unaware of their true role in a larger scheme, people in the Dell are informed that a horrible plague has occurred, and they are to be quarantined for safety. Government corruption, greed, classism, and distrust are at the center of this story, told by Dell resident Frederick Trimmers, Esq., for the edification of Outlanders. Dingley Dell is truly “under the harrow”—that is, under fire—its residents the victims of a most dastardly deception. Similar to Orwell’s Animal Farm, with a hint of Jasper Fforde, this story will make you think and laugh at the same time. --Jen Baker