Like the starving heroine, I was left wanting more by this enigmatic but excellent book. In an antidote to the usual "take three girls" formula, we follow the school and university careers of Carmel, Karina and Julianne, three pupils from a northern convent who all end up in the same grim University residence in London. Without ever becoming friends or understanding each other, the girls are thrown together into a penny-pinching student existence in their all-female enclave, playing out an ultimately tragic tale of envy, competition, appetite and self-denial.
The author obviously feels there is great injustice in the lives of these girls, and this gives her always excellent writing a particular energy. The flashbacks to the girls' schooldays, and the relationships between Carmel and Karina and their mothers, are particularly well done.
More than just a story, this book explores the broader themes of girls' education and ambitions, and how they can be thwarted both by society and by nature. Although the ending is downright strange and I really wanted to know more about some of the characters' motivations, I found this to be a truly original and compelling book.