I got this book free as a review copy and was intrigued by the sentence on the front claiming it was “Miss Jean Brodie meets Donna Tartt”. Now, I loved The Secret History by Donna Tartt, so thought that was a good omen.
I can see why the comparison was made, but don’t think that this is a heavy-going book (which I personally think that The Secret History is – but in a good way!).
Meg Rosenthal is a recently widowed, recently qualified teacher and due to the financial mess her husband’s death has left them in, she has had to sell her home in the city and take a teaching job that provides lodgings, together with her teenage daughter Sally who will be attending the school.
However, Arcadia is no ordinary school, but one that was founded in the 1930’s as a kind of artist’s retreat – and is also not new to Meg who has always been fascinated with Arcadia, its history, its founders (Lily & Vera), their beautifully crafted and illustrated folk tales – particularly one about a changeling girl – and their own tragic tale.
There are two stories that run through the book – that of Meg and Sally in the present day, and that of Lily & Vera in the 1930s, revisited via journals, letters, photos etc.
I have never read anything by Carol Goodman before, but I would definitely like to try more of her books. I loved the pace, the imagery was fantastic, and I found the crafting of the folk tales absolutely beautiful.
However – it wasn’t perfect, and there was one issue in particular that irked me beyond belief! There is a specific book that Meg finds that has the potential to answer all the questions she’s asked about Arcadia’s past and even throw light on a great tragedy BUT she apparently seems in no rush to read it! She seems to read it in no hurry over the course of a few weeks, which seems SO unlikely that I just wanted to throttle her!
I can understand why Goodman did this, it was so that the 1930s story could be uncovered and moved along at the same pace as the present day story, but in that case, she should have just alternated them and then Meg could have found the book at a later date, and read it one or two very eager sittings – which is what any normal person would have done!
If it hadn’t been for that, I probably would have given 5 stars as I really enjoyed it. Apart from the ending. There was a little too much ‘cheese’ for me!