Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls (Anton DiSclafani)

I was sent a preview copy at the beginning of this week and was in that wonderful and awful situation of wanting to read on to find out what happened and not wanting this book to end. I didn't quite miss my bus stop and need to walk back, but it was very close.

It's a fantastic story taking in the bubble that America's rich found themselves in even in the Depression. The slow decline in standards of living isn't affecting the many rich Southern families that have sent their daughters to Yonalossee for generations. The author has put together a coming-of-age story in the 'new girl at boarding school' tradition. Given that Thea seems scarcely to have spoken to anyone not a member of her immediate family, the culture shock is incredible. Thea's family lives in Florida and the isolated family estate and orange groves are for hunting wildlife and riding. She, her twin brother Sam and cousin George have a close relationship that's fractured by adolescence and rigid family observances of the proprieties. Finally, a scandal causes Thea to be sent away to school in North Carolina's Blue Mountains. Thea's only consolation is that she'll still be able to ride every day. She encounters a new set of values at school beyond the ladylike behaviour modelled by her mother: family, money and the ability to ride contribute to your ranking. Thea finds herself struggling to make friends, dress and cope with lessons and noise. How she copes with her exile, the changes to her own body and a new set of rules results in a complex sexual awakening that's handled deftly and with incredible realism.

This novel is one to buy and enjoy over a weekend - you'll be irritated at anyone who interrupts you or be reading through the night. Thanks to Headline Publicity for the proof. It's published on 6 June 2013 in hardback and e-Book and I really recommend reading it.

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