Mayhem and Murder in The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

18885674

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 23rd 2014 by Roaring Brook Press
Source: Publisher

“I don’t condone killing, but if killing happens anyway, then I think women go about it much more sensibly. Leave it to men to be loud and violent and messy about the business. It’s egotistical of them. It’s not enough to eliminate their enemy. No. They must conquer them face to face and watch them plead for mercy, whereas women dispatch victims quickly and silently.”

“Men might say poison isn’t sporting.”

“Yes, and men think that organizing parties of dozens of riders and hounds to chase down one poor fox is sporting. Men’s opinions are irrelevant.”

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place presents the hijinks of seven young ladies when their headmistress and her brother suddenly fall down dead in the middle of afternoon tea. Faced by the dire prospect of being sent home to their horrible families when it is discovered that their caregiver is dead, the girls, led by the eldest, Smooth Kitty, decide to bury the bodies of Mrs Plackett, their headmistress, and her brother, Mr. Godding, in the backyard garden and continue living at the school. Only, as readers will suspect the girls find out for themselves, making a bid for independence is rarely as simple and easy as it may seem on the outset.

The girls are left with two dead bodies to hide but before they can even begin to think about where to put them, guests begin to arrive. Things go from bad to worse and there is a steady progression; stakes keep on getting higher until at last, the truth spills out.

The backgrounds of all the girls in the sisterhood are presented in a sort of preface before the book begins so the reader is aware that these girls are not exactly the creme de la creme of the society in which they live.

I found the book to be delightful. All the girls were greatly individuated; I could distinguish between them simply by reading the dialogue. I liked that they seized what agency is available to them and worked together to attain a common goal. No matter how ill-thought their venture is, the fact that they worked together, though complainingly, made me like them a lot more. Another thing I liked about the sisterhood is that it is realistically constructed. The girls don’t always like each other; oftentimes, they fight and air their issues but never in a malicious way. There is no spite though many tempers are tested. I think the book’s greatest strength is in its characters and the world in which the story is set.

The plot is solid enough but not very original where the mystery is concerned. The pace is just right. The little bits of romance that we glimpse mostly as hints spice up the story without, thankfully, consuming the narrative. The book is about these seven very different girls and Berry ensures that the focus does not lift off them.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. If I had any complaints, it would be that I didn’t necessarily need labels for the girls: for example, Smooth Kitty and Disgraceful Mary Jane. I don’t think these qualities are able to express the characters wholly. The constant repetition of these tags (disgraceful, dour, stout, etc.) made me feel as though readers are being told that Dour Elinor cannot be anything but dour even though we all know that people are too complex to be described in one word. However, this quibble aside, the book is a welcome addition to a very short list of books that focus primarily on sisterhood and female independence in adolescent books. I recommend this title.

4 responses to “Mayhem and Murder in The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

  1. Pingback: TTT: Winter 2015 TBR List | The Book Wars·

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