I’d read and liked three of Meg Rosoff’s books (and particularly liked two of them—What I Was and How I Live Now), so when I read Emma Carbone’s review on one of the NYPL blogs of The Bride’s Farewell, I knew I’d want to read it eventually. But I wasn’t sure I’d like it: after all, Emma hated How I Live Now, which I liked, and talked about how parts of this book were “bleak and miserable to the point of being excessive,” and I wasn’t sure I was that interested in the plotline. But now, having finished it, I’m wondering why I waited so long.

The book’s set in 1850s England, in the area around Salisbury, and is the story of Pell Ridley, a young woman who leaves home the day she was meant to be married. Pell is independent and strains against the expected roles of her time and place: she’s a better farrier than her husband-to-be, knows horses better than anyone around, and doesn’t want to be a wife, much less a mother: but she’s poor, from a large family, not formally educated, and no other options are given her. So she decides to find her own future the only way she can think of: by leaving, heading first for the horse fair at Salisbury and then on to who knows where.

Without saying too much more about the plot, which turns and circles and moves interestingly, I will just say that I liked this book a whole lot: I like Pell and her understanding of animals and how she’s observant and persistent; I like the setting, all the horses and dogs and the chalk landscapes of the south of England. Though there are indeed stretches of bleakness and moments where I squirmed and worried about the characters, none of it seemed gratuitous, and there are flashes of romance and love and joy, enough to make up for the rest. And I really like Rosoff’s writing, which is graceful and precise, each word well chosen. Like this, possibly my favorite paragraph in the whole book:

For those poor souls who can only think of the terrible fear and danger of a runaway horse, think of this: a speed like water flowing over stone, a skimming sensation that hovers and dips while the world spins around and the wind drags your skin taut across your bones. You can close your eyes and lose yourself in the rhythm, because nothing you do or shout or wish for will happen until the running makes up its mind to stop. So you hold steady, balancing yourself in the wake, and unhook your mind from the everyday while you sit at the silent center of it all and hope that the feeling won’t stop till you’re good and ready for life to be ordinary once more. (p 78)

4 Responses to “The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff
Viking (Penguin), 2009”

  1. Jenny Says:

    I read How I Live Now, and liked it far better than the other two Rosoff books I read – I started to think she might be one of those authors that I only like one of her books. But this sounds good, I think I’ll give it a try after all.

  2. Danya Says:

    I have a similar view. I enjoyed ‘How I Live Now’ quite a lot (I don’t know much about anorexia, but there were elements of the narrator’s emotions and experiences of it in this book that seemed authentic); ‘What I Was’ less so.
    And this certainly sounds like one to track down and get stuck into.

  3. Heather Says:

    Jenny and Danya, if you read this I’ll be interested to hear what you think about it! It kind of made me want to re-read How I Live Now because I read it years ago and while I remember the general plotline, I don’t remember the details so well.

  4. Carol Says:

    I’ve been waiting to read someone’s reaction to this; it looked very appealing, and that was before I knew about the horses. Have you read Molly Gloss, “The Jump Off Creek?” Western US, early 20th century, female horse-breaker. Wonderful.

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