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on 7 July 2016
Alice, named after a town in central Australia is, the only child of a fairly prosperous couple (a builder and an estate agent) who are keen to give her the best education possible with a view to finding a 'nice young man' who may eventually fit into the family business.

When the story opens Alice is the fifth form of a private girls school (for both day girls and boarders). She in thrall to Jem(ima) who has just arrived having been expelled from a convent school. Alice is unaware of this, and equally unaware that this will be Jem's last year unless she wins a scholarship to take her into the 6th form.
Jem is both friendly and precocious and introduces Alice to the three R's the school does not teach, namely Religion (Catholicism), Romance and Relationships, and shows Alice some stories she has written on just these themes. Unfortunately Jem does not get the scholarship which goes to another girl whose father is quite wealthy enough to fund her himself. She therefore vanishes from the school but leaves her stories with Alice for safe keeping. Alice continues on to the 6th form and does sufficiently well to get a place at Oxford. (The alternative, which Alice can't face, would be to join her mother's estate agency.)

At Oxford she runs into a guy called Roland (or rather he runs into her on his bicycle while coaching the school rowing team from the Orwell towpath). Roland, full of remorse, takes her under his wing and they become friends. Friendship is all she wants, but of course he would like something more. This comes to a head one day when they out driving in his vintage Deux Cheveaux. She is so horrified at the idea of losing her virginity in the nearby woodland that she drives the car into a close by river! Roland, ever resourceful, manages to save them both drowning, but she ends up in hospital for a few days. That is the end of their 'relationship'. However the driver of a passing car who witnesses the accident (Matthew Riley) visits her in hospital and meets not only with her but also her parents. They think he has rescued her from the car and he does not disillusion them of this. The parents rather take to him and invite him into their household both to keep Alice company and introduce him into the business.
He does rather more then keep her company but her parents are OK with that. They see no reason why 'sensible young people shouldn't cohabit before marriage'.

Then Alice gets a letter from Jem, and this is I guess when the real story starts and it is where my synopsis of the story will end!

I quite enjoyed the story up this point but now Jem and two new characters dominate the story, a Father Mullholland, a Catholic priest, and Giovanni Angeletti, the boss of an American publishing house.

It is all good literature but I found this last part of the quite tedious. Nevertheless it deserves a place on your bookshelves, unless like me you read everything on your Kindle Cloud!
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on 26 August 2002
Why couldn't I have gone to school with Jem McCrail? She breezes in and out of Alice's life like an intelligent and stimulating whirlwind, and Alice, the ordinary, is never the same again.
Make no mistake, this IS a girls' school story - but in the modern idiom. The girls grow up and have families, feelings and characters. Alice's is very shallow, but Jem's is a vibrant foil. The pathetic Flora and her sad little family will make you sad, or angry - so will Alice's patronising teacher boyfriend! Then there is Alice's father, the north eastern building manager, who is lovely and a joy to encounter; he is refreshingly down-to-earth in Alice's world, which has been mixed into a frothy consistency by the arrival of Jem.
This is a lovely, lovely book.
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on 15 October 2000
This starts of a bit schoolgirlish but wow after a couple of chapters I was hooked. This is the second Trapido I have read now and will read more. Both have musical themes to them - The Travelling Hornplay quotes Schuberts Die schone Mullerin, words by William Muller as its chapter subtitles, and Temples of Delight uses Mozart's The Magic Flute. Not being a Classical fan didn't stop me enjoyed these immensely although I am sure someone who loved opera would get more out of the references than I did. The book was so good however that it made me go and borrow a copy of the Magic Flute!
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on 19 July 2003
I read this quite a few years ago but it still stands out in my memory as one of the best novels I have ever read. It was warm, quirky and in parts hyserically funny. I recommended it to a few people, who also loved it. I had to 'rush out' and buy a more of Barbara Trapido after that, which I also enjoyed. But this, for me, is definitely her best.
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on 20 August 2001
This is the second time I have read this book and I am still enchanted by the freshness of the characters - the eccentric Jem, with her tall stories and her subsequent humility, the people-pleasing Alice who, after the 'worst day' of her life starts to get angry, and Flora, who ends up biting the hand that feeds her.
True, the first part of the book does read a little like a schoolgirl story, but that is comforting in itself. As you read on, you will Alice to come out of her comforting coccoon and cheer at her growing discontentment with the subtle bully Roland. Yet the delayed drop of Alice's 'growing up' is tantalising as yet again she is 'rescued' and cosseted by her well-meaning yet suffocating parents, then suffers compounded misfortune and finally starts to question and think for herself.
A very enjoyable book that I will read over and over.
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on 17 August 2001
I thought that this book was extremely well written. It captures the imagination, and keeps you in suspense, with a great many twists and turns in the plot throughout.
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on 8 November 2013
Barbara Trapido always comes out tops. I've read all her books now and simply hang on waiting for more of the same. Of course I can always read the ones I have all over again, and I do. I don't give synopses to the would-be reader; just read them and find out for yourselves how wonderful it must be to write like this. Never a boring moment for the reader! Thank you.
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on 12 June 2007
My first Trapido: a strange experience. Initially I was annoyed, found Jem insufferably precocious, Alice insipid. I agree with below reviewer that Alice behaved like a doormat, not just with men but also with awful Flora. In all, I found the characters schematic, a bit like puppets in a puppet theater, very colorfully painted but not very convincing. But then - this is what it is, isn't it - not a puppet play, but it has all those parallels to the Magic Flute. I don't know enough about the opera itself to appreciate all the allusions fully, but surely it's a colorful opera. Subtleness of character is not one of opera's main points, but flamboyance and stage sets (Flora's place in Paris!) are. - I liked both Robert and the flamboyant Angeletti in spite of myself. So, whilst reading, I never really knew where I was at, but that in itself was an amusing experience, and, in all, in the end, I'd enjoyed the read.
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on 2 May 2013
Alice's friendship with the subversive Jem is life changing and its effects linger after Jem has abruptly disappeared. I enjoyed this book until the author's attempts to draw parallels with The Magic Flute and Jem's teenage novel became all too contrived for me. My sympathy for the only-child, stammering heroine faded soon after the introduction of the character of Giovanni. I'll leave you to work out why! So not one of Barbara Trapido's best but still okay (and a lot better than much of the dross published these days!) She may write in a light tone but there's always a cleverly disguised bite in there!
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on 28 June 2004
I felt that this book was rather weak. I first read Trapido's Frankie and Stankie a month ago, and found it fascinating,and also refreshing that a modern female author could write in such depth and detail about the little things (and the big) that make women women. It was akin to discovering a John Irving for the leg-waxing sex.
However, having subsequently tore through "Brother of the More Famous Jack" and "Noah's Ark", I would recommend that you try these first and give Temples a miss in the meantime.
By no stretch of the imagination a bad book, it is nonetheless pretty formulaic and the good old Trapido themes of salvation by an older lover, sylph-like pseudo-innocent heroine, and successful loving sex and relationships only between those who are sufficiently highbrow and esoteric to satisfy the author's sometimes overbearing craving for original lovers are better handled in "Jack" and "Noah's Ark". The most sympathetic character in this book is undoubtedly Roland Dent, who seems to have strolled right out of Kingsley Amis' imagination and into a world populated by pseuds and feeble minded females.
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