In this sequel of sorts to Francis Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess (1905), Lottie Legh, almost 13 and friend of that title’s heroine, Sara Crewe, becomes empowered by the women’s suffrage movement, growing in strength and urgency in Britain before World War I.
When she was 4, motherless Lottie was placed in a strict girls’ school in London by her icy-hearted father, who provides money but never love. After witnessing a march, Lottie buys a brooch from a suffragist shop; she reasons that, if her father knew, this action would anger him but at least force him to think about her. Learning more about the movement and reading underground publications excites Lottie; over time, she and scullery maid Sally, equally avid about the cause, form a close, secretive bond. As the novel proceeds, Lottie grows in gumption, self-awareness, and insight. Most characterizations, though, are superficial; some, like the stern headmistress’s, are stock portrayals. The author highlights the desperate measures some women took to draw attention to their plight. Webb also clarifies, through Sally’s portrait, that the struggle transcended class barriers. Readers who enjoy melodramatic narratives will appreciate learning about these events and be gripped by the final, shocking revelation about Lottie’s mother. Characters default white; an unfortunate, jarring note is the clichéd Indian speech of Sara’s guardian’s manservant, which Webb has retained from Burnett’s original work.
A well-paced, mostly easy-to-read glimpse into one aspect of women’s history. (Historical fiction. 8-12)