Narrator: Jayne Entwistle
Published by Listening Library
Published on 23 September 2014
Genres: Friendship, Girls & Women, Historical, Humorous Stories, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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There's a murderer on the loose—but that doesn't stop the girls of St. Etheldreda's from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.
The students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma.
Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.
Julie Berry's The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Placeis a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.
I really enjoyed this book. It was so much fun!
The seven protagonists were each clearly defined. Each girl had an identifying adjective before their name to make it easier to remember who was who, and the book opens with why they were sent to the school in the first place. Topping this off with different voices from the audiobook narrator, I only got confused once (I confused Dull Martha and Dour Eleanor! It was odd for a second until I remembered Dull Martha is simple and Dour Eleanor is basically Wednesday Addams).
I thought this book might have taken place over a longer period of time – a few months, maybe. instead, it’s set over quite a short period of time, and therefore the pace is cracking. Almost every chapter ended on something exciting happening or a revelation that made me want to keep listening. It was a murder mystery as well as documenting the girls’ cover up, so I always wanted to find out more!
My favourites? Smooth Kitty, the confident, quick-witted de facto leader of the group , and of course the flirtatious, boy-crazy Disgraceful Mary Jane. Though I do have a very soft spot for the youngest member of the school, Pocked Louise, since she was very smart and capable and underestimated by a lot of other characters. Each girl’s personality was essential to the story and filled in certain parts, which I really appreciated. Although keeping the adjectives in front of their names might suggest the girls were one-dimensional, they definitely were not. There was more to Stout Alice than her rotund figure suggests, for example! But I’ll leave that discovery up to you 🙂
I really loved the relationships between the characters, and how much they loved each other. The whole point of covering up the murders was so they could stay together, and not be sent home, or to other horrid schools! There was no enmity between them, and when one of them did the wrong thing, they actually apologised and made up! I just loved it, it was so wholesome. They really were a Sisterhood. I felt completely immersed and could easily see the schoolhouse, the town, the church and farms, and of course, each girl.
This book was so well-plotted and it really felt like there was a lot of love and care put into its writing. The audiobook narrator did a fine job of different accents and different voices for different characters, which I always appreciate. I even think this could be appropriate for middle-school readers since it wasn’t scary, despite the murders, and due to the time period and age of the girls there was very little romance (not that that would stop Mary Jane!).
If you enjoy historical comedies, strong female friendships, and a completely charming story, I really recommend that you try this book, because I had such a good time with it.
I’ve got a couple of other Julie Berry books – more YA than this MG leaning one – and I’m really keen to get into them now.