If you like Blyton: Mischief at Midnight by Esme Kerr, part 2


Here is part two of my review, where a lot of things hot up.


HALF-TERM

Next up is an exceat weekend – done a little bit differently from the Malory Towers or St Clare’s half-terms that we are familiar with. Instead of parents coming to the school the girls go home (or to a relative or friend) for a long weekend. That means Edie is back off to Folly Farm and her dreaded cousins. Janet goes with her – and to Edie’s horror she gets on far better with her relations than Edie does herself. She even laughs at the nasty things the cousins had done to her in the past. Meanwhile, Anastasia stays with Miss Fotheringay and rather changes her tune about the headmistress.


THINGS GET COMPLICATED

By the time she gets back to school Edie is feeling even more alone than ever before. She has lost Anastasia as a friend, nobody apart from Janet is speaking to her, and Janet has sided with her family rather than her. (The family aren’t abusive but Lyle is clearly mean and the aunt is just generally hopeless.)

Therefore she is receptive when Anastasia apologises and takes back her accusation. It’s not because she has come to her senses and realised Edie would never do such a thing; no, it’s because she has decided it must have been Janet all along.

And here the plot really thickens. Edie half-believes that Janet might be guilty. Miss Fotheringay covers a history class and spends it needling Janet by saying the Suffragettes achieved nothing and caused a lot of trouble doing so. Janet isn’t her usual forceful self, either, she stammers out her arguments here.


UNDERAGE IN THE LOCAL PUB

Edie and Anastasia later see her going down to the town alone on Saturday afternoon and, following their plans to spy on/interrogate her until they get to the truth, they follow her into the pub.

I am really starting to dislike Anastasia now. She accused Edie so readily, and then openly admits that she needs her back as a friend. She is worried the other girls will turn on her when they find out it’s her father that’s bought the woods and tower and she couldn’t bear to have everyone not talking to her. She says that without an ounce of self-awareness. Edie, who’s turning out to be rather weak, doesn’t point out the irony there.

She’s also completely unable to understand that Edie may like Janet – it’s a case of literally I hate her so you should too. And yes, she actually says that to Edie’s face.

Anyway, things get interesting in the pub. Janet has joined a meeting with the protesters who are against the woods being torn down. One of them calls her Josie, meaning her denial that she did not set Anastasia’s ferrets free is very much open to interpretation. Did she set her own ferrets free? Does that make the drunk at the fair her father? (Her mother mentions his drink problem, and it would make sense if he has a different name for her, if they couldn’t even get on long enough to choose one together.) Has it been the protesters she has been sneaking off to meet all along?

We don’t know any answers yet as Edie and Anastasia (but not Janet) are caught by The Man (Miss Mannering, the deputy head) and whisked back to school for a talking-to. Neither will admit they followed Janet however.


RATHER WORSE THAN COVENTRY

Rather like in Blyton’s world sneaking is a terrible crime. Even Anastasia won’t tell on Janet despite hating her. That leads to Edie being suspended, actually sent away from school. Her posh Cousin Charles picks her up, and has arranged for her to stay with her blind grandmother in her nursing home. Edie loves her grandmother but is definitely not excited to spend weeks in a nursing home.

Her cousin is a jolly unpleasant type of person and I really feel for Edie as her whole family seems to be rubbish. He reminds her that she is at Knight’s Haddon to look after and be a friend to Anastasia and reprimands her for doing something that jeopardises that role.

He then drops a bit of a bombshell, that it is Anastasia’s father that pays her school fees. If anything is going to make her feel like a hired help and not a genuine friend then it’s that. He doesn’t even say it kindly, he is almost malicious in his desire to bring her down.

Edie doesn’t want to go in the pub again, so while Charles has a good lunch Edie goes off with the protesters from the woods.


So we have many story lines and mysteries going on here.

Who is the man looking for Josie? And indeed, who is Josie? What will happen to Edie when she joins the protest? Will the protest be successful? I’ll let you know when I finish the book!

Mischief-at-Midnight-Esme-Kerr

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