24 May 2011

Review 27: The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff

Currently on the Carnegie Medal shortlist, the Bride's Farewell is the haunting story of Pell Ridley who leaves her home and family on the morning of her wedding day with her horse, Jack, and her mute brother, Bean for Salisbury.

We follow Pell as she tries to make her own way in the world and deal with the setbacks that she encounters, of which there are many. The Bride's Farewell is a rather depressing read and the amount of tragedy that Pell has to deal gives the book a very melancholy and disconsolate tone. Having said that, Pell is an appealing heroine to root for and she is the best thing about the novel.

The Bride's Farewell wasn't what I was expected from the paperback cover (at the top) and blurb. The cover shows a blonde haired girl in the wind with a green title which gives off a generic pink lit vibe. Equally, the blurb is a little deceptive, I feel, and paints a picture of a historical romance. Which is arguably true in that it is set in the past and there is a romance included. However, the romance is not your typical teenage fare. The poacher who Pell becomes involved with is surly and much older than her and she lives in his barn whilst looking for her horse. He only really features in a small portion of the novel and I didn't find out enough about him to really invest in their relationship. I much preferred the hardback cover (to the left).

As mentioned, Pell endures many hardships. A lot of secondary characters die, including children and there are some potentially upsetting scenes at a workhouse. This is accurate for the setting but is still rather dark. Yet, despite the gritty, upsetting elements of the story I still felt like it wasn't particularly grounded in reality. Pell's situation and journey are within the realms of possibility but it felt rather like a twisted fairy tale; hardship and pain but still a generous helping of luck and chance to allow for a vaguely happy ending.

Having said that, the writing is beautiful and evocative. The moors that Pell grows up on, the workhouse and the home of the poacher are easily imagined. Rosoff is adept at creating an atmosphere across a novel, much as Kazuo Ishiguro does in his work. I read Rosoff's first novel, How I Live Now, last year and was very impressed with it and The Bride's Farewell is both very different and yet with common themes. Journeys and survival against the odds and atypical romances are Rosoff's fare and both feature. However, How I Live Now has a bit more plot to it and is definitely more popular in my library than this, which several students have remarked that they found a little boring. It is not action packed; I felt that How I Live Now combined thoughtfulness with a involving plot better than The Bride's Farewell.

This is a contemplative and careful novel which is definitely for keener readers who are happy to enjoy language and character rather than an exciting plot. I would recommend How I Live Now over this but it is worth reading for Rosoff fans and is certainly something different than your standard teenage girl fare.

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