Review Blog

Aug 14 2009

The bride's farewell by Meg Rosoff

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Penguin, 2009. ISBN 9780141383941.
(Ages 13+) Highly recommended. A book that is exceptionally difficult to put down, The bride's farewell is an engrossing story about Pell Ridley, who escapes from her poverty stricken home on the day of her wedding. Determined not to be like her mother, downtrodden and bearing children continuously, she takes her horse Jack and sets off to find a better life, believing that her sister Louisa will marry Birdie in her place and all will be well at home. Her little step brother Bean follows her, and together they travel to the horse fair at Salisbury to see if work can be found. Encounters with a mysterious gypsy woman and her brood of children, John Kirby a kindly groom and Dogman a poacher bring adventure and danger.
The English countryside and its people, perhaps on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, although that is never stated, are vividly brought to life as Pell goes on her quest for a better life. The suspicion from the villagers that Pell meets wherever she travels, the poaching that keeps body and soul together and the terrible fate of those in the workhouse, all paint a heart wrenching picture of the desperate poverty of the times. Rosoff has done her research well, and the grinding misery of the workhouse at Andover is described in such an understated way that it made me go and research what it really was like.
Pell is a determined heroine, stubborn about what she wants and loyal to her family. When Bean disappears with her horse Jack, she doggedly set out to find him. She is distraught about the consequences of her departure from her family. On discovering that her younger sisters have been sent to the workhouse, she rescues them as well.
Pell is good with animals and the way that Rosoff describes the horses and dogs in this book, will have animal lovers continuing for more. An unconventional romance blossoms in a very low key way, but the reader is always aware that it is Pell's strength of character, her beliefs in her own ability and her courage and loyalty that are the key elements of this wonderful story.
Pat Pledger

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