What’s a girl to do when her headmistresses is murdered?
Dear Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place: I’m sorry that I missed you when you first came out, and I hope I can make it up to you, okay? Have some flowers and a box of chocolates, they’re only a little squashed from where I sat on them on the BART.
I really love Victorian comedies of manners, no matter who they’re written for, but I have a particular affection for the sassy ladies of middle grade, sending dangerous and corruptive messages to the youth. And that’s what this book is all about, with seven distinct personalities going to a school run by a martinet of a school mistress and her highly unpleasant brother. While they labour around the house because Mrs Plackett is too cheap to hire her own workers, starving because she doesn’t bother to serve up enough food for everyone and chafing with resentment, each is glad of one thing: At least they’re not at home.
They’ve all been sentenced to terms at St. Etheldreda’s for various reasons, but they’ve become fast friends, and TBH their home lives were all kind of terrible, so they were pretty well justified in wanting to peace out on that whole situation. Unfortunately, brother and sister drop dead at dinner, which poses quite a pickle.
A flock of young ladies would hardly be left to their own devices in any era, let alone Victorian England. Aside from general panic about whether children are safe alone, it simply wouldn’t be The Done Thing, especially since several of them are known for being rather…more adventurous than girls should be, engaging in highly suspect things like Doing Science and Kissing Boys.
So it’s call the doctor and the coroner and get sent home, or…cover it up.
I think you can guess where this is going.
I’m only about 50 pages in (for once, the trains were timed perfectly, the odds beautifully in my favour, but unfortunately, my reading time was cut short as a result), and I am already loving it. It’s screamingly hilarious (there may have been some snorting), and for a book where you have to pack a lot into a very small space very quickly, Berry has really done a fantastic job of sketching in lively, engaging, fun characters. I can’t wait to stop work for the day so I can go back to reading this bad boy!