**spoiler alert** Really this is a three-and-a-half star book, for me. I enjoyed it, and the writing was excellent, but at the end, it didn't quite ad**spoiler alert** Really this is a three-and-a-half star book, for me. I enjoyed it, and the writing was excellent, but at the end, it didn't quite add up for me.
Gearing up for her HSC, Dodie doesn't think much of it when her parents aren't home one evening. But when they're still not back the next day, and a boy she's barely spoken to at school seems to know more about it than she does, she and her sister Coco start worrying. Before long, they are embarking on a quest to complete their parents' work, which involves driving a mysterious parcel to Sydney.
Lord is a really good writer, and she has a particular talent for one-liners, particularly as chapter openers. Dodie's a good character - easy to empathise with, and with plenty of personality. But I found the overall premise of the book hard to swallow. Even if I had swallowed it, I felt that the emotional climax was unconvincing (although thinking back I could see the foreshadowing) and unsatisfying. Maybe this is just me being old and jaded, but I simply couldn't see a teenager taking the sort of action that Jones does, no matter what sparked it off. Finally, there was no explanation of what had happened to Dodie's parents, the event that kicks off the narrative in the first place (or did I miss this in my indignation at the end?).
All of these are complaints of frustration, really - Lord is clearly such a talent, and I wanted the book to reflect this. I will look forward to reading whatever she comes out with next. The book is a good read and a fast one, so worth a try if you like this kind of thing....more
Boarding schools. They have captured my imagination ever since, aged seven, I was heartbroken to be told by my mu(This review originally posted here.)
Boarding schools. They have captured my imagination ever since, aged seven, I was heartbroken to be told by my mum that I couldn't go to St Clare's because it didn't exist.
Part of me likes to think that somewhere in the Bernese Oberland the Chalet School is going strong, still churning out trilingual girls who become teachers and then marry doctors. And that on the Cornish coast, Rebecca Mason is still practising her tennis while the other girls learn to surf.
One of the reasons I initially fell in love with the Harry Potter books was because of the way JK Rowling plays with the boarding school trope. Hogwarts is basically an old-fashioned boarding school that happens to teach magic, and Rowling sticks to the academic year structure throughout the books (although oh, how I missed the school setting in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).
In I'll Tell You Mine, Pip Harry brings the boarding school trope bang up to date and into the southern hemisphere. Fifteen-year-old Kate Elliot has done something terrible: so terrible that her family is shunting her off to the local boarding school so they don't have to deal with her. As you would expect, she is not happy about this, and things don't get any better when she finds herself sharing a dormitory with the in-crowd and another girl who's as much of an outcast as herself.
Kate is a goth -- which, at school, makes her a freak. Worse than this, boarding school also presents a major obstacle to socialising with her friends, fellow goth Annie and musician Nate. Obviously, Kate isn't going to take all this lying down...
I loved Kate as a character, even if sometimes I wanted to shake her. She's sad and snarky and vulnerable -- and completely believable at every turn. And as we gradually learn more about the events leading up to her banishment, we realise that no one person is to blame.
I think that might be my favourite aspect of the novel. Pip Harry writes all the characters sensitively; even the people who initially seem to lead charmed lives are flawed and they all do bad or stupid things, but as a reader I could always understand why they did them. The progression of the relationship between Kate and her mother is truly touching, and I speak as someone who had a torrid relationship with her own mother in her teens. Nothing is straightforward, and this novel reflects that perfectly.
Kate's voice comes through very strongly right from the first page -- but despite the teenage diction that peppers the pages, the writing feels very precise, as if every word has earned its place. Similarly, Kate's family history feels fully realised, but there's no superfluous information. Everything she tells us is for a reason. One of the more beautiful moments of the book -- Kate's memory of a family holiday, in which, "Liv was too young to have a go on her own but Dad chucked her on the front of his wide Mal and pulled her up to her feet. She was screaming with excitement when she crested down the front of the wave with Dad's hand clutching at the back of her bathers." -- is principally there for contrast. "That was a highlight." The rest of the holiday is memorable, not for its good moments, but for its failures and for what Kate learned about her parents' marriage.
To return to the boarding school setting, I loved that the school remained a character until the end. Sometimes with YA literature it feels as if the author can't wait to get the characters away from the constraints of school, but here, Pip Harry uses every aspect of boarding school life to broaden the story. And despite Kate's mixed feelings about it, I've added Norris Grammar to my mental list of "schools I would like to have known". Which is about the best compliment I can pay the book, really.
Kerry Greenwood's writing is always fun (and often comforting - very much an "all's right with the world" feel to it, and it's so refreshing to have sKerry Greenwood's writing is always fun (and often comforting - very much an "all's right with the world" feel to it, and it's so refreshing to have such strong female characters in the lead). But the denouement to this one felt like a big let-down, not to mention silly and contrived.
The main problem I had was that a homeless character is given very shallow treatment: a deranged ex-banker (thus qualifying himself for our approval by being "one of us" originally - not like those *other* homeless people), throughout the book he "magically" leads Corinna and Daniel on a treasure hunt through Melbourne, while getting nothing out of the plotline himself.
Greenwood tackles some interesting issues: cyberbullying, for example, as well as the usual fat acceptance message. There's another social justice issue that I thought was dealt with well, but mentioning it by name would spoil the plot. (Message me if you want to know, I guess?)
Greenwood's writing is always crisp, and Corinna's punchy narrative takes no prisoners. I just felt that the plotting was lazy and this showed in the denouement.
It won't stop me buying her next book, because I know she can do much better. But this one wasn't as good as the others in the series, IMO....more
I feel like I should give this more stars, because it was very well-written - but it was so bleak! I hated Tsiolkas's view of Europe as a place that cI feel like I should give this more stars, because it was very well-written - but it was so bleak! I hated Tsiolkas's view of Europe as a place that can never escape its Holocaust past. I think there was supposed to be a message of hope somewhere in Colin, who seems to be a symbol or microcosm of Europe, but for me it was lost in the bleakness....more
Really I need a three and a half-star option for this book, because I found it very compelling and beautifully written. The problem for me was that thReally I need a three and a half-star option for this book, because I found it very compelling and beautifully written. The problem for me was that the narrative felt all over the place (and not just jumping around in time, an aspect I enjoyed). At first it seems to be the story of the Stolberg family, part of a declining aristocracy in The Netherlands. But halfway through, the action switches to Australia and the narrative focus narrows to the main character.
Written mainly in the first person, it reads very much like memoir; halfway through, I found myself googling to see which characters existed and which were fictional. My disappointment when I couldn't match up the Stolbergs to actual people is testament to how well the story caught my imagination.
After reading an essay by Elisabeth Holdsworth, I have the impression that this is very much a fictionalised version of her own life and that of her family. As I say, it's beautifully written and compelling (and fascinating!), so I wonder whether it might actually have worked better as straight memoir....more
This is a beautiful story of memory, friendship and love - a love that neither Grace nor May, growing up in 1940s Australia, has a language for. Mills This is a beautiful story of memory, friendship and love - a love that neither Grace nor May, growing up in 1940s Australia, has a language for. Mills's subtle, evocative writing is well worth the effort; reading The Diamond Anchor is like sinking into a calm sea of beautiful, assured prose....more