Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve
It is the summer of the final year of the nineteenth century in the New Hampshire town of Fortune’s Rocks on the east coast of America. Women are expected to behave in a certain way and young Olympia Biddeford is no different. An impressionable 15 year old she is about to discover what it means to grow up. She meets John Haskall, a physician and friend of her father. Despite the fact that he is married and 26 years her senior, Olympia falls madly in love with him.
Finding herself pregnant Olympia must carve out a new place in society as she finds herself ostracised by those around her. Late Victorian society does not take kindly to her behaviour and there are elements of a feminist struggle as she forges a new life.
The prose is eloquent and the descriptions of Olympia’s life and environment are spell binding. Shreve went on to write two more novels set in this town, ‘Sea Glass’ and ‘The Pilot’s Wife’: each dealing with unique struggles of women over the course of the twentieth century. But it is here, with Olympia, that the story of the converted convent in Fortune’s Rocks really begins…
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
“I wonder, if other girls had to be one of us, which of us they’d choose to be?”
The three Fossil sisters are growing up in London. They aren’t really sisters, but adopted by ‘Gum’, a paleontolgist. Each one is a treasure he brought home from his travels. And each is very different. When Gum disappears on one of his expeditions money gets tight and the family take in lodgers. One of them, a dancer, spots a talent for dance in Posy, the youngest, and before they know it, all three girls are enrolled in The Children’s Academy of Dance and Stage Training.
What ensues is a glimpse into life on the stage in 1930s London. Since it was first published in 1936 generations of children have indeed considered which of the girls they would like to be. Is it Pauline, who discovers a talent for acting? Or Petrova who would much rather be fixing car engines than performing on stage. Or Posy, the budding ballerina?
This children’s classic, though a bit dated in its language and style, never fails to entrance readers and no doubt will continue to do so for years to come.
By Willow Coby