It is clear from the many positive reviews of 'Miss Appleby's Academy', that Elizabeth Gill, the author, has many admiring followers. This is the first of her novels that I have read and I fear, on this showing, I cannot count myself amongst them.
Novels that I enjoy have to have characters whom I believe in, a storyline that is compelling and a writing style that invokes atmosphere and stimulates the senses. This book achieved none of these for me, although again, I note, it clearly worked for many others.
Much of the story is located in the north-east of England, an area that Elizabeth Gill is very familiar with. I too lived there for many years. Yet for me, the setting - its people and its places - was only superficially portrayed - there was none of the spark that others ( Can I offer Catherine Cookson for example?), have managed to capture.
The storyline limped along. It continually offered possibilities, only to disappoint. Right up to the end, I wondered if it might offer more, only for it to arrive at a very weak and abrupt conclusion. And the writing style was often very stilted and awkward.
But most of all, I just could not believe in the characters. They were poorly drawn - not at all like real people past or present. By way of example, could I offer George (the surrogate son of the principal character Emma). For the first third of the novel, I simply could not work out how old he was meant to be. Eventually, we are told he has reached the age of 13. Yet thereon, he behaves like few other emerging adolescents I have ever met.
Not for me, I am afraid.