224 pages (hardcover), adult (YA appeal)
On the morning of August the twelfth, eighteen hundred and fifty something, on the day she was to be married, Pell Ridley crept up from her bed in the dark, kissed her sisters goodbye, fetched Jack in from the wind and rain on the heath, and told him they were leaving. Not that he was likely to offer any objections, being a horse. (p. 1)And so Pell takes off, leaving the only life and family she's ever known behind, besides Jack her horse and her little brother Bean who happened to be awake and willing to leave too. They journey through rural England, avoiding nearby towns where they will be recognized, hoping to find work at Salisbury Fair. Hoping that the universe will be kind to them and that they can start their lives anew somewhere far away from the oppression and expectations of home. Of course, that doesn't happen. Pell is faced with trial after trial - townspeople who shun her and her bastard child for their uncivil ways, unfavorable weather conditions, lack of food, and losing both her brother and horse in an instant. Is there a happily ever after in this story? Well, there's an ever after, and it's as happy as can be given the circumstances.
It's futile to try to summarize this story because it's so much more than its plot elements, but hey, I tried. It's the writing that I connect with and Pell's unrelenting courage and desire to be free, her need to be in control of her own life. Seeing her mother raise nine children and deal with an alcoholic husband, Pell knew that was not a life she would choose for herself. But it's the nineteenth century, and Pell doesn't exactly have the luxury of options. Marry or leave home. But leaving home is no picnic, and Rosoff writes it like it is. Hard, ugly, depressing, terrifying. Somehow though, Pell perseveres - what choice does she have? Either she pushes forward or she dies. She's strong, determined, and practical. And that's why I loved this book.
Angieville - "The dark and the dreary are balanced by the truly beautiful writing, the sharp glints of irony, and by the brief but shining moments of perfect understanding and compassion you feel when you're reading."
Bibliophile By the Sea - "The character of Pell was well developed, the historical detail was good, but as for the rest of the story and characters -- something seemed missing to me."
My Friend Amy - "The writing is lovely and perceptive and probably what kept me reading [...]"
things mean a lot - "Pell’s journey is an intense one, and in only a few months she experiences emotions to last her a lifetime: discontentment, loss, anger, love, peace."
ETA: I totally forgot to say that this book is one of the 2010 Alex Award Winners! Woo!