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A Proper Education for Girls Paperback – 2 Jul 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099513463
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099513469
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 905,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"[An] assured, very funny debut; one of the best I've read this year" (Scotland on Sunday)

"A generous, rollicking read... it harks back to the loving pastiche of Angela Carter and, more recently, the camp Victoriana of Susanna Clarke and Michel Faber" (Scotland on Sunday)

"A novel to shock and delight" (Katherine McMahon)

"Beautifully written and an absolute joy to read... Elaine di Rollo's debut should be read and it should be rewarded too" (Scotsman)

"Entertaining... Fun and farcical" (Financial Times)

Book Description

'Flashman for girls'. A rollicking story of twin sisters and their fight for freedom, set in 1857.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Careful, because this book has also been published under the rather better title A Proper Education for Girls. Same book, so don't buy it twice!
In 1857, two feisty sisters have been separated. Lilian has been married off to a missionary and sent to India, having disgraced herself at home. Alice has remained as her father's amanuensis and curator of his collection of scientific curiosities.
Out in India, Lilian thrives and 'goes native,' scandalising her fellow mem-sahibs. When she encounters the man who was the cause of her downfall back home ... well, I won't spoil it for you!
Meanwhile, their father is beginning to regret that his remaining daughter isn't more feminine and accommodating ... has Alice's education had a masculinising effect?
Elaine di Rollo has a doctorate in medical history and, with a light touch, weaves in a lot about Victorian sexual hypocrisy and the appalling treatment of women by the medical profession.
It's highly-amusing and, as other reviewers have pointed out, makes a jolly good holiday read. But it did take me a while to get into it, though ... I was half-way through before I really started enjoying it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'A Proper Education for Girls' is the electrifying debut of Elaine di Rollo and, if you didn't know that nugget of information, you could certainly be fooled into thinking she was an accomplished writer.

The novel alternates between Victorian England and Imperial India. Lilian and Alice Talbot are twins, outwardly different, but inwardly very alike. Their father is an avid collector of all things strange and unusual. As the ever growing collection is steadily invading the huge mansion, the largely unattended plants in the immense hot house display the same behaviour.

Following a scandal, Lilian is married off to a dreary missionary and effectively carted off to faraway India. Alice is left behind to attend to the daunting task of photographing the entire collection. What follows is an entertaining struggle of two intelligent young woman who are constantly scheming to reunite again.

'A Proper Education for Girls' is an unusual novel that superbly combines the tragic and the comic. I am sure Elain di Rollo was smiling all the way to the final page of her manuscript. Like I did when I was reading the novel. If we take the title of the book as a question, then the answer to 'A Proper Education for Girls' is simply: the freedom to live your own life.

'A Proper Education for Girls' was followed by 'Bleakly Hall'. Elaine di Rollo is now writing under her own name E.S. Thomson and recently published 'Beloved Poison'.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The only writer you can really compare di Rollo to is J.G.Farrell - there are more than a few echoes here of "The Siege of Krishnapur" - but do Rollo is very much a voice in her own right, and it is a distinctive and original voice, with elegant writing, joyful leaps of imagination, and an astonishing confidence in storytelling. Farrell won the Booker Prize with "The Siege of Krishnapur", and di Rollo ought to have done the same with this book. She is a major new writer, as her second novel "Bleakly Hall" (which I read first) confirms.
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Format: Paperback
Elaine di Rollo's first novel is a rather forced Victorian satire. Alice and Lilian are the daughters of an eccentric inventor, Mr Talbot. Both are spirited and intelligent, but while Lilian is beautiful, Alice is rather plain. When Lilian gets pregnant by one of the family's guests, Mr Hunter, she is forced to have an illegal abortion and packed off to marry a missionary in India. Alice stays behind to work on her father's 'collection' of inventions, and care for her various elderly great aunts. Little by little, she realizes to her horror that her father is threatened by her intelligence, and along with the demonic Dr Cattermole has hatched a plan for 'dealing' with it - which Alice tries to thwart by joining forces with photographer Mr Blake. Meanwhile, Lilian is determined that her miserable hypochondriac husband won't stop her enjoying India, and gets the absolute most out of life there that she can, including tramping the country to collect material for botanical watercolours, and attending a tiger hunt. And then her past lover pops up out of nowhere... meanwhile, back in England, Alice's situation is getting ever more frightening. Can Lilian, or Mr Blake, save her?

Elaine di Rollo tells this story in the manner of a satire. Despite numerous horrendous happenings - a death from lockjaw, a potential brutal operation, a massacre - the whole tale is narrated in a whimsical, rather forcedly jolly tone. The characters are - apart from perhaps Lilian and Alice - all cardboard cut-outs, from the eccentric, cat-loving aunts to the mad scientist papa, the fiendish medical man (who surprise surprise has a taste for pornography) and his rapacious wife, the lecherous Mr Hunter, the indecisive Mr Blake and the jolly English expats in India - who, surprise surprise, mostly come to a terrible end.
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Format: Paperback
What a powerful and exciting story! At first I thought this story was a gentle tale of two sisters living in their difficult victorian times, but then the story grabs you and you find yourself almost out of breath as the sisters literally fight for their lives. Where did the author even begin to create these brilliant, funny, tragic, yet totally believable characters? I enjoyed this story and couldn't put it down. I had to finish the story and find out the fate of these brave and determined women. Highly recommended!
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