Top positive review
20 people found this helpful
Delightful - far beyond most romantic fiction
on 12 April 2002
Ibbotson's real forte is her children's books, but this, like Company of Swans has the same touches of magic and humour. Ellen, the daughter of a formidable suffragette intellectual disappoints her family by being a genius at the domestic arts, which she learns from her other mother, an Austrian housekeeper. She puts these to excellent use when going to be houskeeper at a progressive boarding school in Austria, whose eccentricities are hilariously (and accurately, given that Ibbotson went to Dartington) described.
The one teacher who refuses to bathe in the nude, she is soon leading a quiet revolution among the pupils, who long for modesty and regularity. She also attracts Marek, the mysterious groundsman wqho turns out to be a composer bent on helping Jews out of Nazi Germany.
WHat makes Ibbotson outstanding is her belief in goodness, and particularly the power of goodness to triumph over meanness and evil. The closest to this kind of fiction is ELizabeth Goudge's. A tonic for the weary or despondent, it adds zest to life.