The blurb: Thea Atwell is fifteen years old in 1930, when, following a scandal for which she has been held responsible, she is ‘exiled’ from her wealthy and isolated Florida family to a debutante boarding school in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. As Thea grapples with the truth about her role in the tragic events of 1929, she finds herself enmeshed in the world of the Yonahlossee Riding Camp, with its complex social strata ordered by money, beauty and equestrienne prowess; where young women are indoctrinated in the importance of ‘female education’ yet expected to be married by twenty-one; a world so rarified as to be rendered immune (at least on the surface) to the Depression looming at the periphery, all overseen by a young headmaster who has paid a high price for abandoning his own privileged roots…
My review: This is a lovely dark book. Thea has been sent away from her family, from her twin brother who it would appear, is her only real friend. There are suggestions of a scandal, something that has broken apart her once happy home and that she is in some way responsible. Her parents react to this by sending Thea to North Carolina to a ‘ranch style’ boarding school or camp might be a better word.
I’ve never really got horses in the same way that some girls do. I didn’t grow up hankering for a pony, didn’t need that bond but the author does a good job of explaining the terminology and the relationship that Thea and other characters have with the horses.
This is a twisty plot, it returns to the past to hint at the indiscretions and the calamities that have led to this point in time. Thea is one thoroughly messed up young woman, the responsibility of which shouldn’t be entirely laid at her door. I admired her as a character, she’s a stand-up girl who refuses to cry and tries not to feel the abandonment of her family. But she’s a flawed character as all good ones are. The history and traditions of the school are also very engaging. This is a great read, definitely one I’d recommend, a fascinating insight into the bubble of post-Wall Street middle-class America with a punchy heroine!
7 out of 10 stars! *******