Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls

In 1930, 15-year-old Theodora Attwell is sent to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls for reasons of a scandalous nature.  While trying to adapt to her new surroundings in the mountains of North Carolina, Thea recalls the events that led to her banishment from her privileged, yet isolated, life in Florida with her beloved family.

The title for Anton DiSclafani's debut novel is misleading.  The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls is less about the everyday life at a boarding school, and more about a young girl entering adulthood, turning a bit risqué in places.  The narrator Thea is complex to say the least, and reads older than her 15 years.  I thought it was interesting that DiSclafani chose to portray Thea in an almost unlikeable way.  Thea has snobbish tendencies that have resulted from her isolated upbringing.   She treats others horribly if they are unnecessary, and her fatal flaw is making rash decisions, putting her own needs before that of others.  For all her faults, and they can be infuriating at times, this makes Thea a much more interesting character to read about.

What stood out for me was Anton DiSclafani's prose, which is wonderfully atmospheric; although this makes for slow reading as every detail has to be savoured.  DiSclafani has successfully captured the essence of two completely different places through her writing, as well as effectively detailing the uncertainty that the Great Depression caused for people in that era.

The only problem I had was with the lack of originality plot-wise.  I was hooked by the mystery of why Thea had been sent away in disgrace, DiSclafani teasing me with hints for the first portion of the book.  However, once I found out the reason, and then reading about Thea's subsequent actions at the Riding Camp, I found myself less in a hurry to finish the book and more of a struggle to stick with it until the end.

Overall, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a decent summer read, but probably nothing than that.  Still I look forward to reading more of Anton DiSclafani's writing in the future, as she certainly has a fantastic writing style.

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