K. M. Peyton, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $16 (352p) ISBN 978-0-395-89598-6
According to the flap copy, Peyton, winner of the Carnegie Medal for her 1969 novel Flambards, spun this Victorian-era novel out of a true incident. It would be a mistake, however, to infer from this that the story is in any way realistic--or to assume that her award back then augurs good work here. The tale begins like a formula romance, the overblown prose appropriate enough to the desperation that Charlotte, 16, feels when her vicar grandfather tells her she's to marry his stuffy young curate. But the plotting quickly becomes preposterous. Before long, Charlotte is joining her older brother and his Oxford chums on a mountaineering trip in the Alps, where she initiates what might politely be called heavy petting with a Swiss guide and, as she says, finds herself ""dining with a disguised murderer [and] nursing a fallen [i.e., pregnant] domestic."" After that, she and her new friends all move to the crumbling home of dashing Milo, who orbits the racy crowd of the prince of Wales; the others pretend to be his servants and, as Milo conducts a sordid affair with the much older woman in the neighboring estate, everyone falls in and out of love with one another. This might seem harmless escapist fare--except for the characterizations. All are clich d, but two are insidious: the maid's wanton ways are synonymous with her ""low"" birth; and the only Jew, repeatedly ridiculed, is ugly, dishonest and ""lazy... she did not naturally work like the rest of them."" If the publisher is gambling on the author's reputation, the wager here is lost. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 343 pages - 978-0-618-73742-0
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