Thursday, 27 September 2012

Debutantes - Cora Harrison

One nice thing about being in a group of friends that all want to get into publishing is that we all tend to end up with extra books. In this case, a good friend had gotten a proof copy of Debutantes and thought it sounded like the kind of thing I'd like and so gave it to me. These are the best kind of friends to have. 

Debutantes tells the story of four titled but poor sisters growing up in an old house in the country in the early twenties. The oldest, Violet, is turning eighteen and wants nothing more than to go to London and be presented to court. Unfortunately, bad investment ideas ten or so years prior have left the family without much and they do not have the money to send Violet to London. And so, the girls begin plotting on how they can get their sister to the capital.

The novel does feel a bit cliche by having each of the four daughters extremely interested in something that was up and coming in the twenties. Violet is just the quintessential debutante. Poppy is obsessed with jazz. Daisy likes to direct and make films and Rose, the youngest, wants to be a writer. Although it's a bit much to swallow, it does add to the atmosphere and Daisy, especially, is fun to follow. Which is helpful as she's the narrator.

That is the thing I love the most about Debutantes: it doesn't follow the pattern you'd expect. Instead of a book following Violet and her triumphs and travails as she tries to get her time in London, you get a novel about Daisy, the plainest of the girls and how she tries to help her sister while also trying to make films and learn more about the mysterious family member who's trunk was discovered in the attic. By making the narrator not the obvious focus of the story, it keeps the reader on their toes. I had no idea how the book was going to end. Was Violet going to go to London? Yeah, most likely. Would she end up marrying that boy that was clearly in love with her? Not really a doubt. But what was going on with Daisy?

Does Debutantes follow all the rules of YA fiction? Pretty much. But it does so by inverting expectations and exploring side plots that could have easily been forgotten. The ultimate climax has nothing to do with Violet and everything to do with an important discovery made by Daisy. I was very impressed by the new and interesting directions taken by Harrison. This book is the first in a new series and I can honestly say that I have no idea what's going to happen in the next book but I'm very excited to find out. 

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