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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 13 October 2013
I love this real feel good story, when everything starts coming together for this lady who fought so many hardships.
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on 10 November 2013
The story centres around Emma who grows up in America. Various events see her travel to the north of England where her family originated from. Emma, needing a job,starts running her own school and despite opposition and prejudice news soon spreads of her academy. The story includes various characters that Emma encounters . Emma emerges as a strong willed woman throughout the book and clearly has a positive influence on all those that come into contact with her. An enjoyable read although it is rather predictable.
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Emma Appleby arrives in a small village in County Durham, having made her way across from America. She brings with the a small boy who is not her son and she seems to be looking for something from the past.

The locals are suspicious, they have long memories and feel that they cannot be associated with her. Only one person seems to connect with Emma and that is Mick Castle. But Mick Castle has problems of his own, not only is he trying to run many pubs in the area, where trouble and fighting is commonplace on most nights, he has a wife who never leaves their house and a daughter running wild.

Emma suddenly seems to be the answer to some of his problems. She tackles the domesticity which is missing from one his pubs, The Black Diamond, and wants to help the likes of Connie and channel the energy she has into something else. The opportunity presents itself when a visit with George to the local school, Emma sees how the teaching method leaves a lot to be desired. If she could teach them in her own way in her own academy then maybe she will find her place in life. What she is searching for seems to have alluded her so far, and perhaps the small village so far from America is the perfect place to start.

The characters that Elizabeth Gill has created are intriguing and rather infuriating. Emma's brother Laurence back in America, was instantly dislikeable and the way he deals with his sister as a commodity is shocking perhaps today, but not in 1906. Mick Castle's wife Isabel, has a problem and whilst it is not perhaps apparent, as the book goes on, the author deals with a rather modern issue in a historic setting. Add into this mix, the wonderful humanistic qualities of the dogs that guard both Mick and Emma and the children as well as the wild weather and landscape of the north of the country adds to a very enriching read. A book full of social history and the circumstances of single women trying to make something of themselves, when faced with prejudice at every turn.

At times I thought I was reading a Catherine Cookson novel, and I wanted to devour more about the locals, more about the academy, and more about Emma and Mick Castle. I did not want the book to finish, but as the final page was read, I have taken these characters and continued their journey wanting what can only be described as the best for them.
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on 12 April 2013
It all starts badly for Anglo-American spinster Emma Appleby when her supposedly perfect father dies and leaves everything to her smug, obnoxious brother. When Emma receives an offer of marriage from an older and totally unsuitable man, she realises it's time to make a stand.

She takes her adopted son George (as Emma is a single woman with a child at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, there are plenty of opportunities for gossip and scandal there), and returns to the North East of England, where businessman Mick Castle is also having a bad time with his alcoholic wife and wayward daughter Connie, who looks nothing like Mick - so we wonder why.

The North East wasn't a prosperous or particularly inviting place at that time. As the local whore tells Emma, there's no living for the likes of us (single/widowed women) except up against a wall. But Emma's not about to start selling her body - with the help of Mick Castle, she opens a school, instead.

There's an attraction between Mick and Emma from the start, but of course he's married and there are going to be plenty of dramas, traumas and a big slice of heartache before they can find happiness.

This novel features a wonderful cast of characters. Mick and Emma are very real, and so are the child George and Nell the fallen woman, whose husband was killed down the pit and thinks all men are bastards really.

Elizabeth Gill is a native of the place about which she writes and she took me there. I could feel the bitter wind off the fells on my own face. When I finished reading, I was quite surprised to find myself back in the 21st century. This is an all-round great read - unreservedly recommended!
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on 22 October 2013
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.
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on 6 March 2014
This was possibly one of the worst books I've read in a long time. The plot has a promising start, but quickly disappoints. Many of the characters are very two-dimensional much of what happens is extremely predictable. However, the real issue is that the quality of the writing is really quite appallingly bad. It is riddled with so many errors in grammar and punctuation that it was at times really very difficult to read. I was actually quite surprised that it had even been published in that state. If you ever thought that editing was unimportant, read this book and you'll discover that it's vital.
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on 13 October 2013
A lovely gentle read with a few wee twists.I love books from this era.
Good strong female heroine.Good descriptive scenes.
0Comment13 of 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 6 September 2013
a new author for me and one I really enjoyed reading. i must read more of her books. Will recommend to my friends.
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on 11 October 2013
This was an excellent book which really absorbed me. I felt that I could not put it down. Highly recommended.
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on 7 August 2013
I have this book on my kindle and thoroughly enjoyed it so I bought the paperback as a birthday present for my friend
0Comment17 of 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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