I have a little free library at my office and tend to pick up books of all genres and subjects for the neighborhood folks to take and read. I picked up this middle grade book at our local library’s book sale a few months ago. I was intrigued enough by it to read it one Saturday.
It is a book about discovering who your true friends are and how to be a real friend as well. The story is about two girls who start out with vastly different lives. One is the spoiled, rich girl and the other the poor orphan who is employed as a servant in the magic school the first girl comes to as a new student.
The rich girl makes friends easily, but she is someone who spends money on her friends and buys them gifts. The poor girl has a harder time as the students (as well as the owner of the school- who is a truly awful person) are not kind to the servants and staff at all. As this is gilded age New York City, that wasn’t surprising.
A change of fate is in store for the rich girl and things change drastically in her life. This change in circumstances leads to both girls discovering a lot about themselves as well as about the other people in their lives. Many surprises and adventures are in store for them. And many discoveries about the world and life await.
This was a great story for 9-13 year olds. It teaches lessons about the true nature of friendship. It shows money doesn’t make you a likeable person or even a good person. It shows that things are not always how they seem and people can disguise their true selves depending on circumstances.
I recommend this for pre-teens but it also has valuable lessons for us adults as well.
I picked this one up when Barnes and Noble had their hardbacks 50 percent off. I liked the cover and the blurb sounded good. Of course, I’d heard of the island of Mustique and how it was made into a place for celebrities to build homes and find peace and quiet, so the idea of a murder mystery set there was intriguing.
As I started reading, I realized why the author’s name sounded familiar. She was the wife of the man who bought the island in real life and gifted Princess Margaret with the land to build her own escape home. The author started the story by having the fictional narrator explaining she was a former lady in waiting for the princess and that her husband bought the island in the 1950s. I don’t want to say this was a Mary Sue type story, but it skirted the edge—except the heroine was seventy years old rather than a young girl.
This was a novel, but there was a whole lot of truth in it—not the murder mystery part nor the person who committed the crime (I hope- LOL) but a lot of the history of the island and of the author herself. I did enjoy the story—even the totally unrealistic parts. The author did a good job with the red herrings and the culprit, so I can forgive her for the use of herself—perhaps an idealized version—as the heroine of the story. It was kind of refreshing to have an older woman in good physical shape as a strong protagonist even though I couldn’t get it out of my head that she was a real person.
One of the parts of the book that resonated with me near the end was this comment by the heroine: “My own grief is harder to define. Why do I care so much about losing something that never really existed? The space left behind will fill, as time passes.”
That passage reminded me of when I finally realized that someone who I’d considered a friend was actually a malignant narcissist and then, for my own protection, I cut off contact with the person. I grieved over the loss of that relationship for a long time and almost got sucked back in again—until I came to that same realization. None of my memories of that person were based on real feelings on the part of my “friend” and our relationship never really existed. It was all an act on that “friend’s” part even though I invested myself in our friendship.
It makes me wonder if this author also had a real life experience with such a narcissist. It sure seemed to me like that was one more of the truths she expressed in this fictional tale. Until you’ve actually been a victim of a malignant narcissist, it’s hard to understand just how awful they can be. Her passage above rang true.
Overall, the book was good and I enjoyed the tale.