The book starts with Rose Christie receiving an amazing job offer to teach at the prestigious school Caldonbrae in Scotland. The students are all female with a mostly female staff.
She explains to her mother, who is thrilled, yet Rose is hesitant. I'm not keen on her mother from the start and the few times she appears in the story I have a mixture of pity and loathing. Rose eventually excepts the position and wonders if the distance is enough to sever ties with her mother. You don’t know what’s between them at this point but you can tell Rose is anxious to escape.
There’s something slightly Gothic with a sinister atmosphere about Caldonbrae. You pick up on that as soon as Rose arrives at the school. She has no one to meet her, only written apologies from the headmaster and a promise to get together the next day. (This doesn't happen for weeks).
After settling in she is required to give a speech to the students and you see right away a similarity to a Hogwarts setting. The headmaster and other teachers sit behind her as she steps up to the lectern to address the girls. There are four separate Houses (think of Gryfindor, Slytherin, etc.) and the students are placed in different ones according to their value or status. All teachers are called Sir or Madam by the students.
One of Rose's first classes is a complete disaster with all of the girls challenging her with impertinent questions and telling her they don’t wish to be bothered to learn Latin or history. They state they’ve gotten rid of the other Latin teacher and by the end the teacher didn’t care. The smells like a lord of the flies story but with female students which could be even scarier. As you learn more about the students and the "curriculum" you'll be applalled. Could something like this go on in this day and age? Too scary to think it could. Feminists will be apoplectic with this book.
Publication date May 18, 2021 by St. Martin's Press. Genre: Literary Fiction and Women's Fiction.
Thank you to Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book. I was not compensated for the review, all opinions are mine.
Sharing with Joy's Book Blog for British Isles Friday.