Corgi, 2006 (2005)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
ourteen-year-old Prudence and her eleven-year-old sister Grace have always been homeschooled by their autocratic father, who owns a bookstore, is riddled by debt, and keeps his daughters
. Their home has neither television nor technology, the girls are not allowed to go out on their own or have friends, and are dressed in old-fashioned clothes made by their mother from cheap fabric remnants. The education authority is putting pressure on the family to send the girls to regular schools but Dad is totally against it.
I hate my dad
', and the reader thinks that Prue, a talented young artist who dreams of attending art college, might have good reason. Dad, who's been having dizzy spells, is hospitalized after a stroke following a confrontation with Prudence - leaving her filled with guilt. Since he can no longer deal with homeschooling, the sisters are sent to a local school, Wentworth, where they're mocked for their odd clothes and strange upbringing. Surprisingly, Grace immediately makes two close friends, nicknamed Iggy and Figgy. But her smarter older sister doesn't manage to fit in at all.
nly Prue's young Art teacher, Mr. Raxberry (
to his students) makes school tolerable. He's kind and understanding, and appreciates Prue's talent. He hires her to babysit his young children, while he and his wife take evenings out together, and Prudence soon develops an obsessive crush on him. While these feelings develop, she spends most evenings at the hospital, helping her dad learn to speak again. And Toby, the best looking boy in class, who's dyslexic, is interested in Prue. It's something she doesn't welcome and that makes her very unpopular with her peers, who blame her for Toby's breakup with his previous girlfriend.
t's clear this can't end very well for Prudence (who does anything but live up to her name) and it doesn't, but she learns several lessons about life - and love - along the way. It's hard not to feel for her situation as an extreme loner at school, and to want things to work out for her. Though some North American readers might have trouble with the Brit slang that permeates the story,
is an absorbing read.
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