Saturday, May 28, 2011

Education of Bet review

The Education of Bet
July 2010

16 year-old Bet is trapped between two worlds... raised in a 19th-century English mansion as a childhood companion to wealthy Will, she is in fact servant class, but used to the life of a lady. She hungers for an education, which of course is not possible. Will attends boarding school -- at least, when he's not being thrown out of them for delinquent behavior. After disgracing himself at his fourth school, Will confesses to Bet that he'd prefer a military career. She thinks of a bold plan: she'll go to school, disguised as him. She tells Will's uncle that she's gotten a job as a governess in order to explain her absence from the family home.

Once at school Bet is overwhelmed by having to get along with other boys who are mostly rough bullies. She thought she'd be entering a paradise, where she could simply concentrate on her studies in peace, instead, she faces hazing at the hands of the other students, with the professors' tacit approval. She starts to develop feelings for her roommate, smart and sensitive James. There is an interesting frisson to their relationship at first. Does James like Bet because he thinks she's a boy or despite of it? There were plenty of elements in the story that strained my credulity. Bet's secret is soon discovered by the school nurse, James and a few others, all of whom wholeheartedly approve of her scheme. Once James knows, they eagerly steal kisses when other students aren't around and even snuggle in the same bed. She rather improbably pulls off a Christmas visit back home where she pretends to be both herself AND Will, changing costumes and coming up with excuses for why "Will" and Bet are never in the same room at the same time.

When the school master and Will's uncle are finally made aware of her deception, the school master's wife quickly leaps to Bet's defense and Will's uncle reveals (spoiler alert) that she is in fact, truly Will's half-sister, and he is now prepared to legally recognize her as part of the family. I wasn't sure whether to be surprised that she wasn't more upset at having been treated as a second-class citizen for most of her life or surprised that the uncle was finally willing to admit that his brother's bastard daughter was family. It seemed unlikely for her to be elevated in status so quickly and easily during that time period. Short(ish) at only 192 pages, this was a light and enjoyable read. I'll recommend this for readers looking for easy, feel-good historical fiction with a happy ending.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.


  1. I agree that some parts were unbelievable, but I liked the story overall. I thought it was sweet and exactly how you describe it as an "easy, feel-good historical fiction with a happy ending."

  2. I didn't really know what this was about and even though some things seem to easy for Bet, I still think I want to read it because it just seems really cute and happy and I like that.

  3. Yeah, everything seemed to wrap up so quickly, too neat and too pat. I think it suffered from too much of a modern perspective... I didn't think the characters reacted as they would have in that time period. But it was still a fun read!



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