Last week I finished "The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls," a coming-of-age novel set at an exclusive riding/boarding camp for rich Southern girls in 1930. I really enjoyed this book; the voice of the narrator, Thea Atwell, is strong and sure and terribly self-possessed for a sheltered fifteen-year-old.
I was a couple of chapters into the book before it dawned on me why I was enjoying it so much: back when I was a teen/tween, I inhaled books about girls at boarding schools and summer camp. Going away to school, and particularly summer camp, is something taken for granted if you're at least middle-class on the east coast (or so I learned), but that reality was terribly exotic and foreign to me, a barely middle-class girl from SoCal.
I also have a huge weakness for books set in the South, especially the wealthy South prior to the 1960s, where manners and etiquette and good breeding were so much a part of the culture. Again, growing up I knew nothing of debutantes and cotillions and family names, but I soaked it all up like I was studying for some future test. (I read Gone With the Wind at least 3 times.)
So when wealthy young Thea is shipped from her isolated home comprised of acres of wild north Florida landscape, and shipped off to the mountains of North Carolina as punishment for some unnamed transgression, I was hooked.
Not to give too much away as to why Thea is abruptly sent hundreds of miles away from her beloved home and twin brother, but in our current culture of "slut-shaming" and blaming the victim, I loved how Thea understood and tapped into her own female power to navigate her new surroundings.
Very strong and engaging first novel, and I look forward to more from DiSclafani.
So, as I got a few chapters into the book and remembered how much I loved "boarding school books," I remembered my favorite one of all. But I couldn't recall the name. Thanks to the internet, a few minutes of searching provided the answer:
Since I had no clue about New England blue bloods or what the heck "Bryn Mawr" was or implied, I lapped up all this fascinating cultural stuff. And since it feels like I also spent huge chunks of my adolescence trying on personas and mimicking famous people or characters, it's no wonder I responded to this book so much.
And I'm happy that "The Yonahlossee..." novel brought it all back to me.