cover image Maria Escapes

Maria Escapes

Gillian Avery. Simon & Schuster, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-77074-7

Readers who, following this novel's flap copy, settle in for a cozy tale about an independent-minded Victorian girl growing up at Oxford University will find that this book misses on all key points: plot, characterization, dialogue and setting. Orphan Maria's escapades--fleeing a dreary girls' school, taking a train alone, sneaking onto the grounds of a historical mansion--are recounted so blandly as to be completely unaffecting. There is a bit of a mystery thrown in, but it fizzles due to on-again, off-again handling and anticlimactic resolution. The characters are flat and stereotypical, their actions arbitrary; the women are singularly unsympathetic. Illustrations not seen by PW . Ages 9-13. (June)