Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
Intelligently written but flawed.
on 12 September 2014
So NEARLY a five star review. Sally Hayward is exceptionally good at capturing the authentic Forest tone: the dialogue is generally first rate and she gives enough of an ingenious twist to the 'school play/ concert' theme to stop it being more of the same. There are any number of minor incidents that I could imagine Antonia Forest nodding approvingly over: we get to meet Peter's Selby, for example, and to see new facets of Esther, of Miranda, even of Miss Keith. The Nicola/ Patrick scenes are warm and convincing, and contrast perfectly with the scenes between Patrick and Ginty in earlier books.
But there is a major flaw in my opinion, which cost this book a star and nearly cost it two: Antonia Forest always offers something redemptive. People fall out with their family and their friends rally round, or vice versa; they sleep on a catastrophe and feel better in the morning; basic human decency prevails. And she is very good, as we saw right back in Autumn Term, in showing the way that rows just fizzle out: people just aren't that interested in other peoples' grievances, friendships generally survive, people have a level of balance and realism that steps in in the end. Not here. NO teenager deserves to be left as one is in this book, in utter despair and isolation; and the trigger for it just isn't adequate. The last part of the book treats one of the characters so harshly that it is impossible to care about the supposedly feel-good (for other characters) ending. I am not sure the author really took on board that if a character is left in a situation at the end of a book, they are effectively in that situation forever; if the author doesn't offer any glimpses of hope or consolation, it just feels as if that character has been destroyed.
I don't know if Sally Hayward plans any more books in the series. This kind of series is always a challenge as the characters get older: the neatly constrained world of school gets less and less convincing as the characters are of an age where they are beginning to separate and focus on life outside and after school. But there are still some big loose ends it would be nice to see addressed. Rowan in particular: I always felt Antonia Forest had left her very badly treated, apparently condemned to live with her mother forever, working excruciatingly long hours, running the farm that would never belong to her, because neither the owner nor his heir fancied the job at the moment. I envisage her at 35 suddenly being told to move out now because Giles's family need the house and want the farm. Lawrie's total assurance that she only has to turn up at the doors of RADA to be welcomed in as a star also has possibilities: does she? I would definitely read another one, but would hope it would be a bit kinder. This one ended far too harshly for an end-of-series book.