THE ELIOT GIRLS by Krista Bridge


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When 15-year-old Audrey, a weak student, enters an ultracompetitive private girls school to please her mother, who's a teacher there, mother and daughter soon discover a culture of repression, gossip and vicious pranks.

Larissa McAllister, the founder of George Eliot Academy in Toronto, admitted Audrey mainly as a favor to the girl's mother, Ruth, a teacher for the younger students. Audrey's veterinarian father, Richard, isn't pleased that she'll be going to the school, which had rejected her several times in the past, because he thinks it's more about her mother's desires than her own. George Eliot's cloistered atmosphere and emphasis on intellectual rigor soon alienates Audrey; she quickly falls in with a popular clique, becoming their errand girl for nasty pranks on both teachers and fellow students. Ruth, meanwhile, finds herself irresistibly drawn to new English teacher Henry. When she's mugged late one night in the parking lot, Henry is there to help her move past her shock and straight into his arms. As Audrey struggles to fit in and Ruth gives herself over to her passions, the mother/daughter dynamic becomes increasingly strained. Will the women lose themselves in pursuit of their ideals or learn to value their humanity, even if it means not fitting in? Although characters such as Larissa and popular girls' clique leader Arabella verge on one-dimensional villainy, Bridge expertly navigates the complexity of Ruth and Audrey's changing relationship. She poses larger questions about the value of duty and honor, both to one's family and oneself. Ultimately, both mother and daughter have much to learn from each other.

A patina of restraint and deeply buried resentment infuses every passage and short, meaning-laden exchange, making this a minutely observed if occasionally claustrophobic portrait of personal awakenings.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-55365-982-2
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2014


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