Tally Hamilton was perfectly happy living in London with her father and her aunts. But when another world war looms on the horizon, Tally’s father takes advantage of a scholarship to send her to a “progressive” boarding school in the country. Although initially homesick, Tally wastes little time in making friends and shaking things up at Delderton Hall. When she sees a tourism advertisement for the Eastern European country of Bergania, whose brave king stood up to Hitler, Tally feels called to visit the beautiful place. And when Delderton Hall is invited to participate in a folkdance festival in Bergania, it seems too good to be true. Tally, her friends, and their inspiring yet enigmatic biology instructor, Matteo, travel to Bergania full of hope.
Karil, the prince of Bergania, lives an unhappy life. He feels stifled by his royal lifestyle and he rarely gets to see his father. But when Karil meets Tally, the folkdancer from England, his perspective on his father changes. Maybe his father is a hero for standing up to Hitler. Maybe the role of a king can be important in the world. Then, Karil’s father is assassinated, and Karil and Tally find themselves swept up in a dangerous political game as the try to smuggle Karil safely out of the country.
As you can probably tell from the two paragraphs of summary, this is a long and complicated story–but a wonderful one! Bergania is a fictional country, so readers should not assume that every detail of this historical fiction is accurate. But the characters are wonderful and the plot a beautiful blend of school adventures, historical, and suspense. It is a coming-of-age story for both Tally and Karil which approaches themes of friendship, family, and personal and national identity–and woven throughout, the theme of finding beauty and peace in nature. Because of its complexity, The Dragonfly Pool does not hang together as well as The Star of Kazan or some of Eva Ibbotson’s other work, but Ibbotson fans and historical fiction readers should definitely check this book out! Personally, I loved it.
The audiobook performed by Patricia Conolly is phenomenal.