Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Camp for Rich Girls to Ride Horses

My beach read venture continues . . .
This time I chose Anton Disclafani's book The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls.  This book, along with many others on my short list of beach reads appeared on many "must read" lists for summer 2013. Just like A Hundred Summers, Disclafani sets her book in the 1930s where many once rich families face financial ruin due to the Great Depression.  The once gleaming debutantes suffer in the wake of it all.  Rather than taking place at a wealthy New England beach community (like A Hundred Summers), this story revolves around Thea being sent to Yonahlossee, a camp in the High Blue Ridge Mountains for wealthy southern girls to get an education, etiquette training, and large dose of social hierarchical reality.  In Thea's case, she is sent there because she dishonored her family.  Thea's infraction appears as a series of flashbacks once she is settled in the world of privilege, class, and horses.

Honestly, just like A Hundred Summers, I very much wanted to love this book.  But . . . just like A Hundred Summers, something kept me from falling in love.  Thea was too cold.  The girls at Yonahlossee didn't separate enough in my mind (they all seemed cold, even Sissy who was supposed to be Thea's warm, popular friend).  The Atwell family felt somewhat V.C. Andrews-ish, and once again, the chilly characters and atmosphere of the entire novel made me want more warmth.  For a book set in the south, I felt cold much of the time while I was reading it.  Thea came across to me as a smart, manipulative girl who got what she wanted regardless of the price to any animal, person, or person's family.  But, she did have good posture as Mr. Holmes pointed out as one of her distinguishing features.

I wanted to fall in love, but I didn't.  I didn't love Yonahlossee.  I was mostly disgusted with all the characters by the end of the book, and the fast forward final chapter put too much of a tidy family angst bow on everything (woe to all of us).  Yes, this book did have some steamy love scenes, but the teacher in me found it repulsive that they were between a student (16 years old) and headmaster (31 years old).  Not to mention the headmaster had 3 small girls, and the love affair happened while his wife was away trying to save the camp from financial ruin.  Yikes and yucky.

My quest to find a summer beach read that is both loveable and readable continues with Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings . . .

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