Cynthia Voigt Jane Langton - Essay

Jane Langton

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In "Bleak House," Charles Dickens gave us Mrs. Jellyby, who took such a charitable interest in far-away Borrioboola-Gha that she failed to notice when her own wretched children were falling down the stairs.

Cynthia Voigt [in "A Solitary Blue"] has created a contemporary version of Mrs. Jellyby, an equally appalling mother-philanthropist…. (p. 34)

The reader guesses from the beginning of this beautifully written story that the mother is a washout—guesses too that the father's still waters run deep. The book has a natural suspense. One wants to see the boy discover the truth about his parents for himself. There is an "I could have told you so" satisfaction in seeing him betrayed once again by his mother, pleasure in watching the development of his new friendship with his responsible father. Professor Greene's repressions and inhibitions begin to seem like virtues compared with Melody's treacherous "I love you's".

"A Solitary Blue" takes its name from the great blue heron Jeff sees in a South Carolina marsh while he is visiting his mother. Its solitude matches his own.

The story is slightly damaged by the appearance of a flock of new characters at the end, but nothing can undo the artistic thoroughness of this study of a boy in pain. (pp. 34-5)

Jane Langton, in a review of "A Solitary Blue," in The New York Times Book Review, November 27, 1983, pp. 34-5.