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Not since the Brontës have we seen the likes of the Talbot sisters, plucky peach growers with a peculiar upbringing and a flair for subversion. Set in England and India in the mutinous year of 1857, A Proper Education for Girls tells the story of Alice and Lilian Talbot, twins separated for the first time in their lives by their martinet father. After an affair comes to a Not since the Brontës have we seen the likes of the Talbot sisters, plucky peach growers with a peculiar upbringing and a flair for subversion. Set in England and India in the mutinous year of 1857, A Proper Education for Girls tells the story of Alice and Lilian Talbot, twins separated for the first time in their lives by their martinet father. After an affair comes to a tragic end, Lilian is banished from the Talbot mansion and married off to a sickly missionary in India. Unwilling to play the part of the demure missionary wife, beautiful, tomboyish Lilian quickly takes advantage of her husband’s hypochondria and her newfound freedom as a British expatriate, tramping off into the jungle to paint pictures of the indigenous flora and secretly learning the language and customs of her adopted homeland. Meanwhile, the plain but sharp-witted Alice remains on her father’s isolated estate, serving as curator to his strange and vast Collection under the watchful eye of the malevolent Dr. Cattermole. The Collection, which has taken over every inch of the rambling estate, is the essence of Victorian England—antiquated and ingen- ious, austere and excessive. Twelve perfectly synchronized grandfather clocks stand at attention at the bottom of a staircase. Botanical specimens have overrun the conservatory, turning the room into a tropical greenhouse. Forgotten houseguests roam amid fossilized sea creatures, display cases of Greek pottery, and mechanical contraptions. A peach tree, inherited from their mother and planted in a wheelbarrow for portability, is a constant reminder of Lilian’s absence. Though Mr. Talbot has cut off all communication between the sisters, a cryptic letter from Lilian manages to slip through, and hidden in the envelope is a puzzling photograph of a tiger hunt. Alice sets about cracking the code in the letter, finding an unlikely ally in Mr. Blake, the photographer hired to document the Collection. While Mr. Talbot is absorbed in the eccentric but seemingly benign Society for the Propagation of Useful and Interesting Knowledge, Alice plots her escape from both her oppressive father and Dr. Cattermole’s unspeakable plans for her future. Intrigue is rife in India as well, where Lilian continues to defy convention. Playing her many admirers off one another, she quietly works toward the goal of reuniting with her sister. But the violent onset of the Indian rebellion against British rule threatens to derail her plans. And back at the Talbot estate, the Society’s experiments are taking a menacing turn. Will the sisters' resourcefulness and profound devotion to each other be enough to save them? Capturing the Victorian era in all of its whimsy and horror, A Proper Education for Girls is a superb debut novel about the power of sisterhood.


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Not since the Brontës have we seen the likes of the Talbot sisters, plucky peach growers with a peculiar upbringing and a flair for subversion. Set in England and India in the mutinous year of 1857, A Proper Education for Girls tells the story of Alice and Lilian Talbot, twins separated for the first time in their lives by their martinet father. After an affair comes to a Not since the Brontës have we seen the likes of the Talbot sisters, plucky peach growers with a peculiar upbringing and a flair for subversion. Set in England and India in the mutinous year of 1857, A Proper Education for Girls tells the story of Alice and Lilian Talbot, twins separated for the first time in their lives by their martinet father. After an affair comes to a tragic end, Lilian is banished from the Talbot mansion and married off to a sickly missionary in India. Unwilling to play the part of the demure missionary wife, beautiful, tomboyish Lilian quickly takes advantage of her husband’s hypochondria and her newfound freedom as a British expatriate, tramping off into the jungle to paint pictures of the indigenous flora and secretly learning the language and customs of her adopted homeland. Meanwhile, the plain but sharp-witted Alice remains on her father’s isolated estate, serving as curator to his strange and vast Collection under the watchful eye of the malevolent Dr. Cattermole. The Collection, which has taken over every inch of the rambling estate, is the essence of Victorian England—antiquated and ingen- ious, austere and excessive. Twelve perfectly synchronized grandfather clocks stand at attention at the bottom of a staircase. Botanical specimens have overrun the conservatory, turning the room into a tropical greenhouse. Forgotten houseguests roam amid fossilized sea creatures, display cases of Greek pottery, and mechanical contraptions. A peach tree, inherited from their mother and planted in a wheelbarrow for portability, is a constant reminder of Lilian’s absence. Though Mr. Talbot has cut off all communication between the sisters, a cryptic letter from Lilian manages to slip through, and hidden in the envelope is a puzzling photograph of a tiger hunt. Alice sets about cracking the code in the letter, finding an unlikely ally in Mr. Blake, the photographer hired to document the Collection. While Mr. Talbot is absorbed in the eccentric but seemingly benign Society for the Propagation of Useful and Interesting Knowledge, Alice plots her escape from both her oppressive father and Dr. Cattermole’s unspeakable plans for her future. Intrigue is rife in India as well, where Lilian continues to defy convention. Playing her many admirers off one another, she quietly works toward the goal of reuniting with her sister. But the violent onset of the Indian rebellion against British rule threatens to derail her plans. And back at the Talbot estate, the Society’s experiments are taking a menacing turn. Will the sisters' resourcefulness and profound devotion to each other be enough to save them? Capturing the Victorian era in all of its whimsy and horror, A Proper Education for Girls is a superb debut novel about the power of sisterhood.

30 review for A Proper Education for Girls

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Mac

    EDIT: Methinks I was too hard on this book. It's flawed, yes, but it still pops into my head periodically even after 1+ years -- that must mean it worked its way under my skin, & that's almost always a good thing. Also, given the wildly variant quality of Historical Lit Fic, this was a very readable specimen that held my interest from start to finish. So I'm bumping my rating to 3.5 stars. :) I'll leave the original review intact, but take my grumps with a grain of salt. FIRST REVIEW: This EDIT: Methinks I was too hard on this book. It's flawed, yes, but it still pops into my head periodically even after 1+ years -- that must mean it worked its way under my skin, & that's almost always a good thing. Also, given the wildly variant quality of Historical Lit Fic, this was a very readable specimen that held my interest from start to finish. So I'm bumping my rating to 3.5 stars. :) I'll leave the original review intact, but take my grumps with a grain of salt. FIRST REVIEW: This book tries to be awesome, but ultimately collapses under its own weight. Clearly the author envisions a blend of multiple genres -- pastiche, magical realism, grotesque, revisionist Victoriana, & even a touch of steampunk -- but it just doesn't mesh. DiRollo does a decent job with the high-handed language of Victorian potboilers, & she pens some great descriptions to paint scenes in the reader's head, particularly the rambling mansion packed with artifacts & the oppressive beauty of 19th-c India. But the plot begins in the middle of everything & offers little explanation -- the rescue of Alice, yes, but WHY? The characters, too, are just plopped into the story, with prior relationships that aren't clearly defined yet obviously mean a great deal to what's happening right then. And while the aging aunts come vividly to life -- with an almost Wodehouse-like sense of absurdity -- Alice & Lilian themselves don't show much depth. We don't know the bones of their characters; their urgency must be told repeatedly & taken on faith because it doesn't come alive on its own. Likewise, the male characters are jerks -- they become stock examples of villains, users, abusers, & brow-beaten horndongs. Even one positive male character in a major role might have improved matters -- so why the bleakness? Such an imbalance makes the author's agenda screamingly obvious. Women have been grossly mistreated by patriarchal science, patriarchal society, patriarchal mindsets, etc etc. Okay. I get it. But repeatedly bludgeoning your reader doesn't win brownie points. It just morphs flat characters into revisionist mouthpieces. I did enjoy the juxtaposition of the sisters' stories -- Lilian's exposure to & identification with the "savages" of India compared with Alice's persecution by savage powers-that-be in the cultured safety of England. That alone would have made for a powerful statement in a relatively short book with such vivid imagery. But compared to similar -- and superior -- books like Bloodsmoor Romance or Sarah Waters' Victorian novels, where such a message comes across rather effortlessly, Proper Education doesn't succeed. It's too bad, really; the oddity of the mansion, the Greek chorus of tottering aunts, the wry humor, the romantic fails, & the flashes of gloomy magical realism were intriguing, if not precisely excecuted.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I expected more on the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 in India, but I was pleasantly surprised, in any case. This was a delightful comedy/farce/satire on women in the Victorian period. I found myself chuckling from time to time at the author's wit. The two Talbot sisters, Lilian and Alice, are two 'round pegs in square holes', not the stereotypes of Victorian womanhood at all--think Bronte sisters or any woman travellers of that period, say, Gertrude Bell. They live with their father, an eccentric and I expected more on the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 in India, but I was pleasantly surprised, in any case. This was a delightful comedy/farce/satire on women in the Victorian period. I found myself chuckling from time to time at the author's wit. The two Talbot sisters, Lilian and Alice, are two 'round pegs in square holes', not the stereotypes of Victorian womanhood at all--think Bronte sisters or any woman travellers of that period, say, Gertrude Bell. They live with their father, an eccentric and inveterate Collector [his collection will bring a smile to your face], several dear aunts, and odd gentlemen with bizarre interests, who live with the family, helping Mr. Talbot. After an 'indiscretion', Lilian is married off and packed off to India. The strong Alice remains as curator of her father's collection of curios and objets d'art from all over the world. She is also an amateur photographer and caretaker of the family hothouse, in which she wheels a peach tree from the hotter area to the cooler area and back again as needed. She receives a mysterious letter from her sister, ostensibly about tiger-skin cushions. A photographer, Mr. Blake, one of her father's guests, helps her decipher the letter. The evil [or is he just misguided in his pursuit of scientific knowledge?] Dr. Cattermole, a friend of her father's, has ideas about Alice's future and plans to act on them. In India, Lilian, married to a dour, humorless missionary, begins to assert herself. She disappears from time to time to paint Indian flora and makes some money at it. Her husband, the hypochrondriac Selwyn Fraser, is appalled at her behavior. The other English are types, but funny, all the same. Lilian's husband dies; as a widow, her forceful personality is revealed more and more. She dresses 'native', adopting native habits. The other English want her to remarry. Lilian notes in one place in the novel: as a girl or wife, a woman is under her father's or husband's thumb; as a widow, people respect her opinions. In trying to escape her oppressive life, she is embroiled in the Sepoy Mutiny. Mr. Blake [along with part of the Collection] helps Alice escape her planned fate. Do the two girls finally reunite? Witty writing and an unusual story were pleasurable. The descriptions of the Collection were very clever; the scene of the eruption of the artificial volcano made me smile. The novel reminded me in parts of the play and movie "You can't take it with you" by Moss Hart, although with different setting. Recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    The title caught my attention first. Then I saw the cover and I was hooked. It’s a little bit fairytale, a little bit cartoon, and that suits the book very well. The opening sets the scene wonderfully. A Victorian mansion where the gates are always locked. The master shut them when his wife died and nobody goes through them without his permission. And so his twin daughters have been isolated from the world. They have their grandmother and their spinster aunts, but they too are under the master’s The title caught my attention first. Then I saw the cover and I was hooked. It’s a little bit fairytale, a little bit cartoon, and that suits the book very well. The opening sets the scene wonderfully. A Victorian mansion where the gates are always locked. The master shut them when his wife died and nobody goes through them without his permission. And so his twin daughters have been isolated from the world. They have their grandmother and their spinster aunts, but they too are under the master’s thumb. He is a collector, a traveller, a man of science, a man with a wide range of interests. And, though he doesn’t intend it, that helps his daughters to grow up to be strong, intelligent and independent. But can they triumph over their circumstances? Lilian has disgraced herself and been swiftly married off to a missionary who takes her to India. Alice has been left behind to care for her father’s vast collections, under the watchful eye of the sinister Doctor Cattermole. Each woman is at the start of an adventure. As the story alternated between the pair they meet with romance, action adventure and intrigue. They have triumphs, but they have setbacks too. The story is fabulous and, because the girls have grown up away from society, they are oblivious to social strictures and simply use their hearts and minds as they steer their extraordinary courses. No, of course it isn’t realistic, but it’s an entertaining story very well told. The characters are simply but clearly defined, and they all do their jobs very well. The settings are effective too, and some wonderful scenes are played out, creating more than enough drama to keep the pages turning. And along the way the author is able to say great deal about the position of women in Victorian England, the Raj, science, collecting, and a few more things that I can’t quite put a name to. There were moments I worried. When the story seemed to becoming a little bit too cartoon-like, one-dimensional. But, though it rattled a few times, it just about stayed on the tracks. And wound up with a spectacular finale, that saw all the womenfolk, grandmother and aunts included, rise up to seize control of their lives. It was the kind of ending that makes you want to hold your breath and cheer at the same time! Definitely a book with the wow factor!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Absolutely magnificent novel! The prose is artful, twin heroines real, complex & fascinating, plot is riveting & the history/period detail sumptuous. The horrific lot of Victorian women is balanced by the beauty, strength & timelessness of sister-love, feminism & adventure. As in any work of fiction, the reader must suspend belief. The novel is the richer because the author skillfully weaves the antiquated notions of womanhood with those of modern day perfectly. Pair the novel Absolutely magnificent novel! The prose is artful, twin heroines real, complex & fascinating, plot is riveting & the history/period detail sumptuous. The horrific lot of Victorian women is balanced by the beauty, strength & timelessness of sister-love, feminism & adventure. As in any work of fiction, the reader must suspend belief. The novel is the richer because the author skillfully weaves the antiquated notions of womanhood with those of modern day perfectly. Pair the novel The Disorder of Longing by Natasha Bauman, a similar masterpiece, with A Proper Education for Girls as two gems for the women's literature/historical fiction reader.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Pauline

    I just loved this novel, it's an amazing adventure with two cool 19th century female protagonists. In the end I couldn't turn it down, I read it in two days and loved every page of it! I hope Elaine di Rollo writes a new novel soon, she has created in this novel a higly original universum, it's like a Brontë novel but with a very dark twist and black humor! Loved it, loved it, loved it :)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    I was very intrigued by this book. It is the story of two sisters who had an extensive and varied education, which bucked the norm of Victorian England. They learned horticulture, science, history, and other unorthodox things at the feet of their eccentric, scientific minded father. They lived an opulent life in a sort of grand-house-turned-museum. The sisters were smart and witty, clever and more free thinking than their contemporaries. But I must admit that I did not love the book. It started I was very intrigued by this book. It is the story of two sisters who had an extensive and varied education, which bucked the norm of Victorian England. They learned horticulture, science, history, and other unorthodox things at the feet of their eccentric, scientific minded father. They lived an opulent life in a sort of grand-house-turned-museum. The sisters were smart and witty, clever and more free thinking than their contemporaries. But I must admit that I did not love the book. It started out well enough: twin sisters, separated by their eccentric father, in 1850's England. The book was interspersed with images of the subcontinent of India. What is not to like? Well? It was choppy. The story went from one sister to the other. Normally I don't mind switching points of view, but this seemed a bit forced to me. I also found the father too eccentric. I understand the Victorian conventions, he was blinded by morality late in his daughter's education and overdid everything, but he was a totally flat character. He went wherever his other flat character friends pushed him. He never came to any realizations. The time that was spent in India was also very disappointing and unoriginal. The East India Company was notorious in their handling of the natives. The author played on this fact but added nothing new. It was as if she took every stock scene right out of every other “Company” story. On the other hand, the story was empowering for women. The sisters outsmarted the men in their lives. They were not afraid of their circumstances. They were clever and prevailed in the end. Which came very suddenly. Not a satisfying end to a so-so story that had a ton of promise.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Found this browsing the stacks at the library. The cover pulled me in, the premise sounded original, and so I took it home. It had such promise. The world the author allows you to inhabit is fantastic -- the eccentric scientific father, the separated twin sisters, India, the aunts, the "collection" -- all seems like a great setup. I was sorely disappointed. The male characters were flat and stereotypically narcissistic to the point of ridiculousness. And wicked. There is not a redeeming character Found this browsing the stacks at the library. The cover pulled me in, the premise sounded original, and so I took it home. It had such promise. The world the author allows you to inhabit is fantastic -- the eccentric scientific father, the separated twin sisters, India, the aunts, the "collection" -- all seems like a great setup. I was sorely disappointed. The male characters were flat and stereotypically narcissistic to the point of ridiculousness. And wicked. There is not a redeeming character among the lot. The females are the heroines of the story, but in contrast to what? Even they seem harder to like as the novel progresses. The characters seem to be taken right out of whatever feminist Victorian mythos has been dreamed up to malign the other sex. Farce? Satire? It was hard to be sure what the author was going for here. Namely, I think, bizarre. Repulsive descriptions of encounters with prostitues, as well as the ending, where the scientific expertise and misogyny of one doctor lead to an almost-mutilation. I pictured a character from a silent movie with the curled mustache and black hat. But with the setting of a modern horror movie. The author paints all men of that time as such vile creatures it was disheartening. The female twin protagonists are resourceful, yes, and clever, and their acumen is something to be praised. I cheered the women's escape from their various situations and found the novel as a whole to be slightly satisfactory -- there were elements of parallelism and an intriguing question of allegiances. But when they wash their hands of all men at the end, I was just sad. A somewhat intriguing read, with a plot that moves along quickly, but in the end I felt I'd been spoon-fed propaganda. Or at least a badly-done historical satire.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Beth

    DiRollo's debut novel is about twin sisters Alice and Lilian who are separated for the first time when Lilian is married off to an irritating preacher who is a missionary in India. The girls were raised in a house filled to the rafters with any odd and unusual artifact or contraption their father could get his hands on. The novel is told in intervening chapters between Alice, who is at home minding her father's collection, and Lilian, who is braving the wilds of India. Used and abused by their DiRollo's debut novel is about twin sisters Alice and Lilian who are separated for the first time when Lilian is married off to an irritating preacher who is a missionary in India. The girls were raised in a house filled to the rafters with any odd and unusual artifact or contraption their father could get his hands on. The novel is told in intervening chapters between Alice, who is at home minding her father's collection, and Lilian, who is braving the wilds of India. Used and abused by their father and pretty much every man in their life, the twins aren't afraid of using men right back to be reunited and achieve freedom. Something about this novel, and especially Alice's story, was almost, but not quite, magical realism. The images of Alice in her parlor among the vast conservatory, getting lost among plants and her numerous elderly aunts was a little fantastical. Alice takes off in a flying machine and almost suffers through a clitoridectomy at the hands of the fanatic Dr. Cattermole. Similarly, Lilian witnesses extreme violence and random encounters with Indian royalty among her travels. I liked this novel okay, I just didn't really like Alice or Lilian. They seemed sort of inhuman and ruthless. I was never quite sure what exactly they wanted or where the story was going. I would have enjoyed the book more if the novel had opened before Lilian left for India so the reader could see the sisters interacting and get a better understanding of their relationship.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I started off really liking this book. It had all kinds of elements I like to see in a story: lush setting full of interesting historical elements, intelligent and strong female characters, a host of colorful secondary characters, and an easily readable narrative voice from another era. I was all set for the perfect book! Unfortunately, as the chapters wore on this book made a quick transition from charming to utterly bizarre. Suffice it to say, Dirollo holds nothing back in her graphic detail I started off really liking this book. It had all kinds of elements I like to see in a story: lush setting full of interesting historical elements, intelligent and strong female characters, a host of colorful secondary characters, and an easily readable narrative voice from another era. I was all set for the perfect book! Unfortunately, as the chapters wore on this book made a quick transition from charming to utterly bizarre. Suffice it to say, Dirollo holds nothing back in her graphic detail of the more distasteful aspects of this bygone era. While I give her credit for shining a light on the dark side of life as a female during this time, I can't help but think it was over the top. This story just seemed to go on and on, each page holding a more repulsive surprise than the last. Overall, just an odd book and not one I'd read again.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jena Gardner

    Was on its was to a five star review...but it got a bit wacky at the end. An interesting story of two sisters and their eccentric father. One sister is sent away, married off to a missionary and bound for India. The other is a prisoner in her own home, restricted by the morals of the day, her father, and his collection. The sisters tales and their coded communication through the Victorian era is charming and interesting, but the end disintegrates into madcap madness that lacks the dignity of the Was on its was to a five star review...but it got a bit wacky at the end. An interesting story of two sisters and their eccentric father. One sister is sent away, married off to a missionary and bound for India. The other is a prisoner in her own home, restricted by the morals of the day, her father, and his collection. The sisters tales and their coded communication through the Victorian era is charming and interesting, but the end disintegrates into madcap madness that lacks the dignity of the rest of the book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea

    I really loved this book. It was so funny and endearing.

  12. 4 out of 5

    BeesReads

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book though I have to say the end was a bit rushed (no explanation about how the estranged sister suddenly returned). The writing was gently humorous for the most part. Set in mid Victorian era, twin sisters Alice and Lilian are brought up by their eccentric father who is a collector of all sorts of scientific and other objects. A succession of chaps are brought into the house to fulfil various roles and one of them, Mr Hunter, 'disgraces' the more beautiful Lilian. I I thoroughly enjoyed this book though I have to say the end was a bit rushed (no explanation about how the estranged sister suddenly returned). The writing was gently humorous for the most part. Set in mid Victorian era, twin sisters Alice and Lilian are brought up by their eccentric father who is a collector of all sorts of scientific and other objects. A succession of chaps are brought into the house to fulfil various roles and one of them, Mr Hunter, 'disgraces' the more beautiful Lilian. I won't say more without spoiling exactly how, and she is married off to a missionary and ends up in India where she joins the memsahibs. Meanwhile Alice remains at home. Considered unattractive and unlikely to marry by her father she becomes subject to the attentions of one of her father's friends (Dr Cattermole) who says he can fix her demeanor to become more feminine by a little operation. (I leave it to you to guess what). Lilian's husband dies and she becomes even more of an oddball. The Indian mutiny against the East India Company occurs, and there are some rather gory scenes. Story contains some mild porn. The views expressed by Dr Cattermole in the story are based on real views expressed by Victorian medical professionals. As with Handmaid's Tale, not so long ago, this would all be considered stone-age stuff or far-fetched. Alas, the way the world is moving at present, we might find ourselves back in there in 10 years time.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    This book has been on my to read shelf for 10 years and I seriously don't know why I waited so long! This was nothing that I had expected and in all the right ways. This is not a sappy coming of age story of sisters, instead it is the story of a family that in today's world would have their own reality series on TLC. Subtle humor and a few devious plans make this such an enjoyable story.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    Really enjoyed this book. Just disappointed by the ending.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Varady

    I can't express how happy I am to live in a modern, westernized country where women can do as they please, for the most part. It's still inadvisable to walk alone at night in most urban areas, and there are precautions that women need to take that may not occur to men.* It's easy to see why so many women were locked away in mental institutions or the backrooms of their family homes during the Victorian Era. Written off as insane instead of the intelligent humans they truly were, in need of I can't express how happy I am to live in a modern, westernized country where women can do as they please, for the most part. It's still inadvisable to walk alone at night in most urban areas, and there are precautions that women need to take that may not occur to men.* It's easy to see why so many women were locked away in mental institutions or the backrooms of their family homes during the Victorian Era. Written off as insane instead of the intelligent humans they truly were, in need of intelligent pursuits which couldn't be satisfied by needlepoint or gossip. I would have gone absolutely stark raving mad if I had been subjected to even a smidgin of the repressive social expectations that the Talbot sisters had to endure. Elaine di Rollo's novel, A Proper Education for Girls takes a microscope to a family of privilege, and examines the idiosyncrasies and prejudices produced by Victorian ideals. Elaine di Rollo's premier novel about two sisters (the surviving pair from a triplet birth), Lilian and Alice Talbot is a lesson in the ills of small minded men being in control of passionate and intelligent women. It's a novel of finding one's footing in a world where you have been taught to tread lightly and bring no offense to those around you. The reader is introduced to the Talbot household through a series of flashbacks that bring the reader up-to-date without giving away too much. di Rollo's style, wit and dark humor remind me of Edward Gory if he were to have written a novel. The subject manner is dark, and at points made me cringe, and all the while somehow keeping a light tone with a hit of hysteria behind it. After all, the perceptions that most of the characters have of Lillian and Alice is absolutely absurd, and one can't but laugh, even if what they're trying to do is horrific. I did find myself more interested in Alice's story than of Lilian's, and I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps because Alice was still living with her demented hoarder of a father who is trying to fill his life with objects to make up for the fact that he didn't have a son. In addition to her father, there were the aunts and the grandmother who were great women, and I love everyone one of them. Along with this motley crew of relatives is a smattering of hired help that also makes Alice's sections enjoyable. Lillian on the other hand has been married off to a wet noodle of a man, and has far more freedom to move about as she pleases while Alice is a virtual prisoner in her father's home. In addition, the only character I found likable in Lilian's section is Captain Forbes who is a closet feminist. The rest, with the exception to Lilian herself, are just horrible, vapid people. Over all I really like this book. It has a wonderful ending reminiscent of Thelma and Louise, with a happy turn instead of a 400 foot drop into a ravine with no hope of survival. The characters were lively and unpredictable. There is suspense, humor, horror and even a little romance. di Rollo really did her homework with regard to the Victorian mindset and culture, using actual medical book, and travel narratives to create a realistic and colorful landscape. If you're into period novels with a twist, you'll enjoy A Proper Education for Girls. *Leaving your first name off of your mailbox or door buzzer. This way people won't know whether your male or female just by looking at your name. Women being a bigger target for home invasions and robbery if it is felt they live alone. For most tips visit: http://simonesmith.hubpages.com/hub/S.... To read the full dual, visit: http://duelinglibrarians.net/reviews/...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    This book is kind of all over the place. I really enjoyed it however. I don't really know how I could sum it all up there was so much information in so few pages. I recommend it to anyone of the 20+ age range not really a great teen read, though it is not marketed for teens so that makes sense. Two girls left from a set of triplets in which one girl died young. They have become engaged in their father's collection which takes up every inch of the house. Their father does not let anyone leave this This book is kind of all over the place. I really enjoyed it however. I don't really know how I could sum it all up there was so much information in so few pages. I recommend it to anyone of the 20+ age range not really a great teen read, though it is not marketed for teens so that makes sense. Two girls left from a set of triplets in which one girl died young. They have become engaged in their father's collection which takes up every inch of the house. Their father does not let anyone leave this house without his permission. However, one sister, manages to escape after she disgraces herself and her father is forced to marry her off to a missionary who takes her to India. The other girl, Alice, however, is left behind. Her father sort of thinks of her as part of his collection after the nasty Dr. Cattermole points out that she is less than lady-like. Lillian (the girl in India) knows she needs to get Alice out of there, before something awful befalls her. I enjoyed this book, even though it took me quite awhile to get through. The ideas seemed fresh and intriguing (twins, a bizarre collection, India, England, Sexism, new medical procedures, hermaphrodites, photography, uprisings). I really enjoyed that it switched back and forth between Alice and Lillian's point of views every few chapters. This definitely kept you reading because they would switch at the height of excitement. This book dealt largely with the sexism that was very present in England around the early days of petticoats and such. Elaine di Rollo did extensive reading and research when writing this book and it makes the book that much better as an insight into the (sometimes crazy) things that people believe and how they acted. I recommend this book to people who are looking for and interesting almost factual type of read. This book does contain exciting parts, action, adventures, little mysteries. I did not find it a fast read however, it was still quite enjoyable.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Meaghan Allen-harris

    Two plucky sisters are forcefully separated by a prudish Victorian father determined to mold his headstrong and intelligent daughters into passionless and vapid shells of women, which is of course the proper temperament for young ladies in the Victorian era. Lillian shipped off to India with a wispy missionary troll for a husband and Alice is sequestered behind closed doors, subjected to mockery and endless days filled with caring for her father's vast collection of varied artifacts, plants, and Two plucky sisters are forcefully separated by a prudish Victorian father determined to mold his headstrong and intelligent daughters into passionless and vapid shells of women, which is of course the proper temperament for young ladies in the Victorian era. Lillian shipped off to India with a wispy missionary troll for a husband and Alice is sequestered behind closed doors, subjected to mockery and endless days filled with caring for her father's vast collection of varied artifacts, plants, and cultural pieces. Not to be so easily disregarded into the oblivion, Lillian secretly works towards being reunited with her sister while Alice slowly comes to the realization that her father and his friend Dr. Cattermole are much more sinister than they appear. I enjoyed this book for the most part; the beginning drew me in and the ending thrilled me, but the middle dragged a bit. While the middle parts didn't contain any pointless information or "fluff," the writing just didn't engage me in as much as I would have hoped. I enjoyed Lillian's parts quite a bit more than Alice's. She seemed like a much stronger character and much more willing to take her life and destiny into her own hands, whereas Alice worried rather than taking action. The ending was spectacular. I was fully prepared for the typical knight in shining armor ending, but I was delightfully surprised when that didn't happen. In the end, all of the female characters (including the kooky aunts living with Alice) took absolute control of their lives despite the opposite wishes of the men. I cheered them all in the last pages. All in all I enjoyed this book and would read it again.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I definitely enjoyed this well-written novel, but it is also odd and a little weird. The plot builds and I towards the end I just had to do a little binge read. It's also an interesting look at women in the mid-1800's and India and England.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Set in the 1850's Alice and Lillian, twin sisters, are separated by their father as result of something Lillian gets up to which would bring shame to the Talbot Mansion. She is banished to the Colonies (India) by being married off to a missionary. He is no match for Lillian who established herself as quite a character amongst the British overseas - and this is very useful as she finds herself in the thick of the Indian mutiny. Her sister, Alice, finds herself the subject of much fascination and Set in the 1850's Alice and Lillian, twin sisters, are separated by their father as result of something Lillian gets up to which would bring shame to the Talbot Mansion. She is banished to the Colonies (India) by being married off to a missionary. He is no match for Lillian who established herself as quite a character amongst the British overseas - and this is very useful as she finds herself in the thick of the Indian mutiny. Her sister, Alice, finds herself the subject of much fascination and enquiry due to her non-feminine appearance and attitude and is soon dragged into strange and misguided medical attitudes to changing such self assured and strong willed women into meek and mild feminine people. Who can save Alice? Will Lillian survive the mutiny? Is Mr Blake friend or foe and how has Dr Cattermole such a stranglehold on the girl’s father, Mr Talbot? This is a great story told with gusto and enthusiasm. The Mutiny was described in graphic detail which fixed scenes of horror in my mind for a lot of the day. As for the description of the medical procedures being planned to deal with the headstrong Alice, well, ouch! As with a lot of novels like this it did tend to be a little bit of a slow burn but it really did reward the perseverance (or many commutes to Glasgow). Hope Elaine finds time to write another.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Two sisters raised in a home filled with curiosities must find a way to escape. One is married off after disgracing herself and goes to India where she adapts quite well. The other is left to survive their controlling father and his friend, a doctor with Victorian ideas of women and how to treat their "maladies". Interesting read, frustrating and enlightening. Tough on the men in their lives, with little patience for their foibles and failures. Strong women, supposed to be sufficient unto Two sisters raised in a home filled with curiosities must find a way to escape. One is married off after disgracing herself and goes to India where she adapts quite well. The other is left to survive their controlling father and his friend, a doctor with Victorian ideas of women and how to treat their "maladies". Interesting read, frustrating and enlightening. Tough on the men in their lives, with little patience for their foibles and failures. Strong women, supposed to be sufficient unto themselves, but I can't help feeling they lack something. Sympathy, perhaps. Though that may be reserved for each other, which the book suggests. Since we do not see them in physical proximity, or even really in communication, until the very end of the book, however, it's difficult to find. I think it's supposed to be somewhat uplifting (Lillian's plan is ultimately successful. . . widowhood, false love, justice, revenge) but the fact that they have to masculinize themselves in order to gain any freedom goes against the whole feminist idea, doesn't it? Then again, it's the times in which they live. Also interesting that in order to "feminize" Alice, the doctor plans to literally un-sex her. Makes me happy I didn't live then.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Alice and Lillian grow up with their father who is a collector of modern gadgets. Lillian get pregnant by a visiting Mr. Hunter who leaves before he knows she is pregnant. A deranged Dr. Cattermole delivers her baby and it dies. Lillian is then married off to a missionary and moves to India. She learns the native ways and is determined to bring her sister to India. She meets up again with Mr. Hunter and has her vengeance after her husband dies. Meanwhile Alice plots to marry a visiting Mr. Blake Alice and Lillian grow up with their father who is a collector of modern gadgets. Lillian get pregnant by a visiting Mr. Hunter who leaves before he knows she is pregnant. A deranged Dr. Cattermole delivers her baby and it dies. Lillian is then married off to a missionary and moves to India. She learns the native ways and is determined to bring her sister to India. She meets up again with Mr. Hunter and has her vengeance after her husband dies. Meanwhile Alice plots to marry a visiting Mr. Blake who ends up rescuing her when Dr. Cattermole is ready to perform a female surgery on her to make her more feminine. When he rescues her Lillian is there to take her away. Interesting book with some history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I found this to be a pretty fun book. Some parts get close-to-difficult to read, but thankfully, disaster is averted and things work out well for the good guys (mostly women) and the bad guys get their comeuppance. It's a bit fantastical but still in the realm of "willing suspension of disbelief." The two main characters are sisters Alice and Lilian (the chapters alternate between the two characters) who grow up as caretakers of their eccentric father's "Collection," a Victorian-era museum I found this to be a pretty fun book. Some parts get close-to-difficult to read, but thankfully, disaster is averted and things work out well for the good guys (mostly women) and the bad guys get their comeuppance. It's a bit fantastical but still in the realm of "willing suspension of disbelief." The two main characters are sisters Alice and Lilian (the chapters alternate between the two characters) who grow up as caretakers of their eccentric father's "Collection," a Victorian-era museum taking up every nook and cranny of their British estate. As the book opens, single Alice is mourning Lilian, who has been recently married (poorly) and been shipped off to India. Both women are strong and gifted, and manage to prevail in ridiculous circumstances in their quest to be reunited.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    An unusual one, set jointly in a Victorian mansion stuffed with an eccentric's collection of curiousities, and in India at the start of the Indian Mutiny. The house almost reminds me of Gormenghast, although the main characters are more sympathetic. Lilian and Alice are twins. They grew up in their father's mansion, helping to look after his collection, but Lilian offended and was packed off to India as the wife of a missionary. Their father falls more under the influence of a doctor with an An unusual one, set jointly in a Victorian mansion stuffed with an eccentric's collection of curiousities, and in India at the start of the Indian Mutiny. The house almost reminds me of Gormenghast, although the main characters are more sympathetic. Lilian and Alice are twins. They grew up in their father's mansion, helping to look after his collection, but Lilian offended and was packed off to India as the wife of a missionary. Their father falls more under the influence of a doctor with an interest in anatomy and treatments for female hysteria. The story alternates between the 2 places, but somewhat disjointed in time - it begins with Alice, then moves to Lilian, but about 6 months earlier, and keeps up this disconnect throughout most of the book. I liked it. - 3 1.2 stars.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dee Renee Chesnut

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. On the comments about this book, someone asked if this was a YA book, and I would not recommend it as a YA book. On the back of my book, one reviewer said it had the naughty irony of Margaet Atwood. I believe this book and The Handmaiden's Tale are both about who will control women's bodies. I likied this was an adventure story for adult women. I also liked that the author did not leave me hanging with unused characters and props. If Lillian packs a knife or gun, she will use it. I think the On the comments about this book, someone asked if this was a YA book, and I would not recommend it as a YA book. On the back of my book, one reviewer said it had the naughty irony of Margaet Atwood. I believe this book and The Handmaiden's Tale are both about who will control women's bodies. I likied this was an adventure story for adult women. I also liked that the author did not leave me hanging with unused characters and props. If Lillian packs a knife or gun, she will use it. I think the author conveyed the time of Dickensian England and colonial India with her descriptions of Talbott Hall and India.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elderberrywine

    Twin sisters, raised during the Victorian era by a rather deranged father obsessed by his Collection and the Society for the Propagation of Useful and Interesting Knowledge. One is beautiful, and is seduced and thus is quickly married off and banished to India, which happens to be on the verge of the Sepoy Rebellion. The other is not, and is fated to stay behind and is subject to even worse dangers. But the sisters will not be denied. And kudos to their glorious band of elderly aunts, who refuse Twin sisters, raised during the Victorian era by a rather deranged father obsessed by his Collection and the Society for the Propagation of Useful and Interesting Knowledge. One is beautiful, and is seduced and thus is quickly married off and banished to India, which happens to be on the verge of the Sepoy Rebellion. The other is not, and is fated to stay behind and is subject to even worse dangers. But the sisters will not be denied. And kudos to their glorious band of elderly aunts, who refuse to be subjugated to male rule. Dithering as an art form. You go, girls! A very delightful read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fourborne

    It is interesting how some readers can dislike a book and you find it to be amazing. Then you read a book on the New York Times best seller list and find it awful. Sometimes it’s not a good idea to base on book solely on reviews of others. A Proper Education for Girls was exactly what I hoped it would be. For me it was a page-turner. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen. When I had to attend to my other responsibilities and stop reading, all I could think about was picking the book back It is interesting how some readers can dislike a book and you find it to be amazing. Then you read a book on the New York Times best seller list and find it awful. Sometimes it’s not a good idea to base on book solely on reviews of others. A Proper Education for Girls was exactly what I hoped it would be. For me it was a page-turner. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen. When I had to attend to my other responsibilities and stop reading, all I could think about was picking the book back up again. I wait waste your time giving you the plot and talking about the characters, just pick it up and read it for yourself.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pbwritr

    Follows two sisters in 1857, one in England with her father and aunts in a stuffy mansion, and the other in India, married quickly to a preacher and banished from home by her father. Lilian and Alice are both strong-willed women, having been educated by their father in his scientific (albeit quirky) pursuits. But he still expects total ladylike behavior. Lilian adapts to Indian life,, much to the chagrin of the English ladies living in the village of Kushpur. And Alice proposes to Mr. Blake, a Follows two sisters in 1857, one in England with her father and aunts in a stuffy mansion, and the other in India, married quickly to a preacher and banished from home by her father. Lilian and Alice are both strong-willed women, having been educated by their father in his scientific (albeit quirky) pursuits. But he still expects total ladylike behavior. Lilian adapts to Indian life,, much to the chagrin of the English ladies living in the village of Kushpur. And Alice proposes to Mr. Blake, a photographer brought in to document her father's immense collection. I did think that Alice and Mr. Blake would run off and marry and that Lilian really did care for Mr. Hunter, but I was mistaken!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    A very entertaining novel, though also appalling (treatment of women in Victorian England). But the women prevail and their tormentors get their come-uppance. Some of the characters are priceless (especially the aunts!), the setting is hilarious (the one in England), the Society for Interesting and Possibly Useful Knowledge (or some such) preposterous, and the two main heroines are plucky, resourceful and thoroughly endearing. Interestingly, this author, like Alexander McCall Smith also hails A very entertaining novel, though also appalling (treatment of women in Victorian England). But the women prevail and their tormentors get their come-uppance. Some of the characters are priceless (especially the aunts!), the setting is hilarious (the one in England), the Society for Interesting and Possibly Useful Knowledge (or some such) preposterous, and the two main heroines are plucky, resourceful and thoroughly endearing. Interestingly, this author, like Alexander McCall Smith also hails from medical school in Edinborough and this book is similar to his books in its somewhat fable-like quality. Not exactly magical but not exactly realism either.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    I had sworn I heard a review of this on NPR, but didn't find anything when I went back to look for it. The story tells of two sisters living with their eccentric scientist/collector father in England, a scandal and disgrace, and one sister being married off to a missionary. They go to India, and the two stories begin to parallel each other and then come together again in the final chapters. It's a little bodice-ripper, a little silly, and much more entertaining rather than serious. I had been I had sworn I heard a review of this on NPR, but didn't find anything when I went back to look for it. The story tells of two sisters living with their eccentric scientist/collector father in England, a scandal and disgrace, and one sister being married off to a missionary. They go to India, and the two stories begin to parallel each other and then come together again in the final chapters. It's a little bodice-ripper, a little silly, and much more entertaining rather than serious. I had been expecting a more serious story initially, but enjoyed it anyway.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I liked this book, but it was very strange. I'm not sure if perhaps in some ways it is meant to be a farce about Victorian times, but some of the incidents are truly bizzarre and sinister, albeit based at least loosely on actual beliefs about and practices on women by the medical establishment in England during the Victorian era. The characters are not very believable but the story did keep my attention and I was sort of sorry when it ended. I wanted to see how many more bizzare things might I liked this book, but it was very strange. I'm not sure if perhaps in some ways it is meant to be a farce about Victorian times, but some of the incidents are truly bizzarre and sinister, albeit based at least loosely on actual beliefs about and practices on women by the medical establishment in England during the Victorian era. The characters are not very believable but the story did keep my attention and I was sort of sorry when it ended. I wanted to see how many more bizzare things might happen.

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