The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, Hardback
3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Perfect for fans of The Great Gatsby, Tigers in Red Weather, and Curtis Sittenfield...1930s America, southern high society: Part love story, part coming-of-age novel, this is the moving, raw and exquisitely vivid story of an uncommon girl navigating a treacherous road to womanhood.

Thea Atwell is fifteen years old in 1930, when, following a scandal for which she has been held responsible, she is 'exiled' from her wealthy and isolated Florida family to a debutante boarding school in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

As Thea grapples with the truth about her role in the tragic events of 1929, she finds herself enmeshed in the world of the Yonahlossee Riding Camp, with its complex social strata ordered by money, beauty and equestrienne prowess; where young women are indoctrinated in the importance of 'female education' yet expected to be married by twenty-one; a world so rarified as to be rendered immune (at least on the surface) to the Depression looming at the periphery, all overseen by a young headmaster who has paid a high price for abandoning his own privileged roots...




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"But then, I knew nothing about the place except that it was where my parents were sending me so they wouldn't have to see me."Thea has brought disgrace on her Florida old-money Great Depression family and is sent away for the summer to a riding camp. When it becomes clear that her stay is not just for the summer but that her parents want her permanently out of their sight, she tries to make herself more welcome in her new world, trading favours and gossip for social elevation...Thea is an intriguing character. In some senses she is wise beyond her years, acting more adult than many of the adults around her, but still very much a teenage girl with that brutal mix of sharpness. Her odd relationship with her twin - maybe it only seems odd to me because I'm not a twin. The liaison with a far-distant cousin, who at the same time is like a brother to her, predictable and yet tragic. Her parents, considering that she spends very little time with them in the book, are also sharply captured - on the cusp of modernising while buried in their orange grove dollars. DiSclafani (what a great surname!) captures the fading South well; the drip-drip-drip of family money down the Depression drain while girls are packed off to finishing school. The importance attributed to decorum and the age of family money is thrown into relief against the lacking morals displayed by several characters and the spicy ambition of the girls to succeed.In a sense I found it disappointing that the plot continues to return to Thea's sexual adventurousness - as if there was no other aspect of her that could cause conflict (when there were plenty of other aspects). But I often find that frustrating in a novel. The inevitable decay of the old money system was much more interesting, as was the evolution of Thea's relationship with her parents.A much darker, more American boarding school tale than those of Enid Blyton on which I grew up. Just as addictively readable.