SECRET PLACES by Janice Elliott


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An autunmally broody novel about adolescent love--set in a girls' day school in bleak WW II England and feverishly lit by the GÖtterdÄmmerung flickering of offstage war. German refugee Laura Meiser is a late arrival at the Albert Lodge School for Girls: ""she had the air of a temporarily disinherited princess."" So ""ordinary"" Patience Mackensie, who looks to be the sort ""good at Geography,"" is fascinated by Laura--and will be drawn into the world of Laura's family, a world ""more dangerous but much richer"" than her own: Laura's weirdly glamorous mother Sophie (on the brink of break-down); dapper Herr Doktor Meiser, who will endure his internment as an enemy alien with a gallantry that barely hides despair; and absent Heini, the beloved ""golden"" brother who--as a member of Hitler Youth--has betrayed his father. But Patience's understanding of adult tragedy is as fleeting as that of the schoolgirls glimpsing the POWs in the camp built on the grounds--and being best friends with Laura is complicated. The attraction between the two flames and cools through three years, with country summers of boys, friendships, shimmering air, hard work, and ""perfect happiness."" And when Laura is battered by a schoolgirl hierarchy that has found a German scapegoat (while the Olympian headmistress is busy manipulating her faculty), well-liked Patience cannot totally disengage from Lanra's tormentors. Worst of all, Laura inexplicably pairs off with Stephen--a boy who (Patience thought) fancied her. And finally Patience and Laura have an essentially innocent affair of passion, leading to shame, fear, and attempted suicide. Elliott effectively tests the fiercely tribal yet heady mesh of a contained society in chaotic times; and the result is a craftily bittersweet, sunset-colored small novel--drenched, not unattractively, in adolescent traumerei.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's