Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

                               

Arc provided by Mcmillan's Children Publishing Group through Netgalley 
Release Date: September 23rd

A very important fact that readers should know before starting to read this book:
The story is told as a complete farce. I mean... literally speaking!
(somehow that little bit, escaped me completely while requesting this story. I blame it on the pretty cover.)

So if, like me, you're more used to only having "bits of it" thrown in once in awhile, you're due for a different reading
Also... a very important question...
Do you like farces?
_______

Conceptually speaking, this deserves a five star rating.
This is a witty, original, intelligent, and well developed story...
So why didn't I enjoy reading it more than I did?

While this has its bright moments, and moments of pure witticism, I couldn't get into its rhythm... or maybe that is the problem: Its lack of rhythm, especially regarding the story's first half.

The fact that the author decided to give us some basic character information of our leading seven main characters by simply associating some traits to them, and then later on, simply vocalize a constant (and boring!) stream of adjectives to their names, was for me the story's weakest point.
I get it. Just like a farce, the author decided to give us stereotyped characters:
The witty one, the kind one, the dull one, and so on and on...
But they're seven girls, and to be given phrases such as this, right at the beginning of the story, is pushing a DNF:
Pocked Louise opened her mouth to correct Dull Martha, but Smooth Kitty shook her head slightly. Pocked Louise, the youngest of the girls, was accustomed to her older schoolmates bossing her. She kept still.
Dear Roberta covered her face with her hands.
To say that I had a really hard time with phrases such as this would be putting it mildly.

 By the second half of story I did however became more accustomed to this peculiar format _or maybe I just started ignoring it _ so I could start appreciating the writing a little more, without having to stop to figure out which character I was now reading about.

The problem with a farce _at least as far as I see this _ is that by giving us these stereotyped nineteenth century characters, all of the girls voices somewhat sounded the same.
Yes, their interests were all very varied, but feeling that if it weren't for the adjectives used to identify them, I wouldn't know how to proper differentiate them was not a good feeling.

For instance, what were the chances that seven girls with apparently so different personalities would act so blasé in the face of not one, but two murders?
Yes, I remember that this is a farce, but I can't help feeling that the only thing it managed to do _in the beginning_, was to portray the girls somewhat as sociopaths.
_______
This was all during the infamous first part of the book.

Second half:
It got better... much better...
Although the situations couldn't be more confabulated, the girls' character started to leak through their simple given adjectives:
Poison is a woman’s weapon,” Pocked Louise told Dour Elinor.(..)
“You sound proud of it,” Elinor observed.
“Why shouldn’t I be?” Louise flipped through the pages of her notebook. “I don’t condone killing, but if killing happens anyway, then I think women go about it much more sensibly.
Leave it to men to be loud and violent and messy about the business.
So we have the smart young woman used to having her opinion discarded at home...
Then the one who is used to having her way about everything resorting to her charms...
Also, the girl who is too good for her own good...
The one that isn't all that smart...
The one who would like to go to university...
The one who rather enjoys different things...
And the one that  always seemed lacking, when compared with thinner family members...

Despite different upbringings, and ages, there's one thing all of these girls have in common:
Neither of them wants to go home... so when their headmistress and her brother drop dead at the dinner's table, there's only one solution for them all:
Bury the corpses, and pretend as if nothing had happened.
Which is easier said that done, since the girls will have their work cut out for them, trying to deal with numerous shady characters that will start flocking to their school as if attracted to something...

Things you may expect reading this story:
People digging graves...
Carts of manure...
Breaking and entering...
Charming young gentleman...
Charming old ex-sailors...
Marriage proposals...
Poisoned people... and animals
(don't worry the animal doesn't die!)
A little bit of flirting...
Making out... nineteenth century making out!! Hand kissing!
Elephants...
Darling nephews...

What happens here to redeem the story for its strange "characters' characterization", is that this is a very complete farce in which apparently joking, the author manages to give us an in depth  look at what it meant to be a girl in the nineteenth century, and how the rest of society perceived her.

So, merit wise, this story is very well accomplished...
Do I intend to re-read it?
Ever?
In the near future I don't think so. Also this was so quirky and different, that unlike what happens with most books, I don't think I will be forgetting this one so soon.
But who knows, maybe in a couple of years I will be more adept to this type of storytelling.
I cannot say that it does not have its merits.
It just wasn't for me.


Buy "The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place"

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