Characters Who Breathe: Enola Holmes

Happy October, everyone! This week has been fraught with peril. Okay, not really fraught, mind, but I had a sick day and a thing that lasted for about four days, and I am beginning to have trouble with my eyes from working all day with the computer, and then working a great deal at night on the computer. Mostly, I blame my cell phone, which has tiny characters, and upon which I will be spending LESS time.

Interesting trivia fact about me. I have brain damage. When I was young, my left eye developed the wrong focal point. Back in the 70s, we didn’t prevent this from happening by putting the pirate patch over the weaker eye until it straightened itself out. So I have one good, full time eye that does all the work, and one part time eye, which does what it damn well feels like. The freeloader. Both eyes are pretty and look healthy, but my right eye is really feeling the strain of an office career AND a writer career. Add in the stress of focus shift as we age, and it’s not too hard to understand why my eyes hurt.

Liberal amounts of eye drops aside, I’ve been doing some research. Every year in the spring, my vision insurance allows me basic new lenses. This year I will be looking into blue light reduction lenses. Meanwhile, I’m dimming the lights, the computer screens, and trying to spend less time on computers, and the time I do spend with bigger print. I am going to try to more or less abandon my cellphone back to once a day checks. Because ouch.


But here’s why you are here today. Let’s talk about Enola Holmes from the Enola Holmes mysteries by Nancy Springers. Many of you may not have read about Enola, because she is a middle-grade character. Her books are delightful. The basic story of Enola is that she is Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’ little sister. Lest that turn you off as too derivative, let me assure you that your middle grade child (or you) will find her genuine and sincere. There are also many puzzles and codes in the books to maintain the air of mystery.

Enola runs away from home early in the series, due to a very peculiar circumstance, in order to save herself from the fate of young Victorian women. She has been raised by an unconventional mother and decides she would be better to strike off on her own after her mother leaves her. No points for Mom, mind, but it is the catalyst for the story. Enola proves as successful as her brothers at deduction and daring-do, but she does not fall into many of the adventure cliches. She disguises herself as an adult, but does not decide to masquerade as a boy. She hides behind many disguises and invents people to legitimize the businesses she runs. Of course, as the books progress, we discover that she hasn’t fooled as many people as she thinks she has, but she develops a loyal cadre of friends, and in the end proves herself.

Like many books with living characters, Enola narrates her own story, so we see the insides of her, her doubts and feelings about her situation. She is very genuine and multi-faceted. The books are short, and I would recommend you read the whole series if you can, but the first and the last are good bookends to capture the breadth of the character. So, go read them.

Next up in a couple of weeks: Little Dorrit

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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