The Story of Beautiful Girl – Rachel Simon (Random House)
The heroine, after escaping from the villains, is recaptured.
Thus begins The Story of Beautiful Girl, and it feels wrong: won’t the heroine’s lover, Homan, save her? No – he runs.
What about the widow, at whose house the couple found sanctuary: surely she will intervene as Lynnie, our heroine, is thrust into the car waiting to return her to the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded. But the widow just watches.
The villains drive off with our heroine in the back seat, and it seems they have won.
The villains didn’t know she had left her newborn baby with the widow.
Rachel Simon’s well-crafted novel follows three storylines: the widow, raising the baby as her own; intellectually disabled Lynnie; and Homan, the deaf African American man Lynnie is in love with, trying to find his way back to her.
The storylines rotate around Lynnie, struggling to survive in one of the United States’ nowinfamous psychiatric facilities in the 1960s, and holding onto her hope of seeing Homan and her daughter again.
Homan’s difficulty in a world where no-one speaks his language is explored, and the reader gets a real sense of his frustration. Homan doesn’t even know Lynnie’s name, but calls her, in his mind, ‘Beautiful Girl’. He struggles with everything, until the struggle becomes too much.
The Story of Beautiful Girl is a fascinating look into the mind of an intellectually disabled person, and a deaf man in a world where he can’t communicate.
Simon also intended the book to be a fascinating look into life in one of the United States’ nowdefunct mental institutions, but there wasn’t a good sense of this. Life in the school is shown in interactions with attendants, all either ‘‘good’’ or ‘‘bad’’. Some shocking stories are told, but we only see these in flashbacks, without any real tugs on the heartstrings.
But while the unexplored potential in describing the school was disappointing, the insight into such a different society and characters, and the pace and plot turns of the book, kept me reading and enjoying The Story of Beautiful Girl.
– Reviewed by Ruth Gibbs
Wither – Lauren DeStefano (Harper Voyager)
Wither draws the reader in and makes them a part of the story – it feels like it becomes your own reality.
Part one of The Chemical Garden Trilogy, the story is set in a future where humans are dying young.
The ‘‘first generation’’ are the last humans to be dying of old age and are searching for an antidote so their children may live longer lives.
The story is told through Rhine, an orphan trying to find a way home to her twin brother. But she is forced to marry Linden, who has also taken two other brides.
Like Rhine, I fell in love with the servant Gabriel, and pitied her husband Linden. The sisterwives become friends with Rhine and I found I quite liked them too. House Master Vaughn, Linden’s father, allowed me to feel sorry for Linden as he is unaware of his father’s dark secrets.
As the story unfolds, we learn the horrible truths hidden in the beautiful mansion.
Wither was a book difficult to put down and very easy to read. Definitely a book for a teenage girl who loves to lose herself in romance.
– Reviewed by Nicole Baxter