Thursday, July 06, 2017
REVIEW: Girlhood by Cat Clarke
While Girlhood didn't quite reach the emotional impact as some of the author's previous stories there is still so much emotion in this book and a lot to love about it.
My top five reasons to love this story include (but aren't limited to)
1) the boarding school element
2) an addition to the first reason is that this boarding school is set in this Scottish wilderness, which makes it that little bit more ...wild?
3) the friendships, which I think is what keeps drawing me back to Cat Clarke's stories
4) the issues that this book tackles including an eating disorder, grief, guilt and also ...gaslighting
5) the diversity of the characters including sexuality, race and differing economic backgrounds.
What even is it about boarding school stories that are such a pull to me and to so many other readers? They're just so addictive to read and the boarding school within Girlhood is no exception. Here are a bunch of girls all living together away from their parents, having this little bit of freedom and independence. And I think the fact that this is a boarding school in Scotland and in this particular location makes it even more fun. Because of that there are secret caves and spooky nooks and crannies within the building, ghost stories that can be pulled out to scare.
The main character in Girldhood is Harper. She's come to Duncraggan Academy for a new start. She's still haunted by the death of her twin sister, Jenna and Harper still carries feelings of both grief and guilt for her part in Jenna's death. But she's found a great, close group of friends and things seem mostly okay ...until the arrival of new girl, Kirsty Connor, shakes things up.
As I said, one of my favourite elements to this story are the friendships. Harper's friends are pretty amazing: supportive and togethery and you can tell immediately how much they mean to Harper. But you can see with the arrival of Kirsty that cracks start appearing in Harper's friendship group. But can it be so easy to destroy a friendship? I'd also not heard that much about gas-lighting before, the manipulative tricks that are employed to cause unease and self-doubt. I thought it was interestingly done in Girlhood. It kept me reading and wanting to know more. But I also loved that this is a book not only about the slow destruction of friendships but about building new ones and building on existing friendships.
And finally, thank you to Cat Clarke for writing diversity into this book without having it be a thing in the book. There are bisexual characters in this book and people of colour but these things are secondary to the main plot line. I love that. The only bit I will mention specifically is that Harper does struggle in coming from a middle class background and adjusting into a community mostly made up of far wealthier classmates and friends even though her own circumstances had changed to match those of her friends. And I found that particularly interesting.
I really enjoyed Girlhood. It was tense and engaging and I really do recommend it!