I don’t know about you but ever since reading Enid Blyton’s stories of boarding school I’ve been a teeny weeny bit jealous of anyone who got to go to one, so when Midas PR asked me if I wanted a copy of The Exclusives whose very setting is an exclusive girl’s boarding school, I couldn’t resist. Better still, the summary indicates that are secrets in the past that are impacting on the present for at least one of the pupils.
I was quickly absorbed, we first meet Josephine Grey in 2014, daughter of the Prime Minister’s advisor when she receives an email from Freya Seymor, her former best friend at Wendell’s. Back in 1996 the two girls were studying their A levels, hoping to go to Oxford but it is clear from Josephine’s reaction to Freya’s email that something went badly wrong.
This is an engaging story although sadly devoid of midnight feasts and jolly japes the atmosphere is far more competitive and with rivalries bubbling beneath the surface the japes are anything but and the consequences far-reaching. The whole story is told from Josephine’s point of view, a girl who has a mentally ill mother and a father who is being busy and important. Freya is really her only friend and so when the friendship suddenly breaks down she has scant support to help her through.
In the present Josephine is an archaeologist but she doesn’t want to go digging around in her own past and she doesn’t want Freya raking it all up either. As her personal life, such as it is, begins to fall apart, Freya’s dogged determination to meet up with Josephine to discuss the past causes panic. It is obvious from the beginning that she feels guilty about something but what could possibly have such a long-lasting reaction?
The storytelling is engaging and I had some sympathy for both girls, although there did come a point when I wondered how much longer the author could expect me to wait for the secret to be revealed as my patience reached its limits. It is always nice to read a book where the characters appear to be authentic, funnily enough I was more convinced by the pupil’s behaviour than some, but by no means all, of the adults. As much as I hate to admit it, lots of girls together can be a force to be reckoned with and I could easily imagine that in the enclosed environment of boarding school the element of claiming the prize whatever the cost can soon spiral out of control. Interestingly it appeared that the Head teacher shared this personality trait with her pupils, but for her it was to ensure Wendell’s kept the top slot in the Times list!
I enjoyed this story about friendship, how bonds are made, how they can be broken and what happens afterwards,
enormously. I’m full of admiration for the publisher’s twenty7 choice of debut novels, the two I have read feel fresh and innovative, I can’t recommend this book if you like xxx as t haven’t read a book quite like this one. The setting combined with the secrets, yes there is more than one, cause a powder-keg of tension and I could only wonder what the result would be when the whole thing went up – I wasn’t disappointed.
The Exclusives is published today in eBook format, the paperback will follow in April 2016.