My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The penultimate in her series featuring the Marlow family, Attic Term is split mainly between Ginty and Lawrie / Nicola. They’re back at school. The twins are planning their form entertainment and Ginty is telephoning A BOY in those moments when people think she’s in the bathroom, the corridor, running an errand and, what’s worse, is that she’s phoning THAT THERE BOY from the secretary’s office.
This is a bit of an odd book to review for me as I’ve never been able to read this series in depth or sequentially. I adored Autumn Term, I had a bit of a baffled moment during that one Marlow book where (I think Nicola maybe?) got eyed up by a Dodgy Man With Obvious Ill Intentions, and that one with the sailing boat to France (?) was kind of epic but really confusing because I’d just read Autumn Term and then there’s several of the other titles I’ve never read. My Marlow knowledge is, at best, patchy.
What I can say with some clarity is that The Attic Term is a beautifully written book. Forest, despite the occasional stentorian mention of DRUGS, writes with a very sharp clarity. She’s quite superb in writing girls; girls who are bordering on adulthood or others who are just revelling in their younger sister status. Forest also is superb in writing girls and their interactions in that curious feudal system known as the boarding school. The moments when the girls are discussing something are a joy to read; the language is snappy, bright, and flows just as quick conversation does. It’s visceral writing that’s almost underwritten in a way; she makes her point, just, barely, and allows the words to make the impact rather than surrounding them with a host of speech tags, adjectives and window dressing. This is the sort of thing that keeps bringing me back to Forest, that kind of curiously mature skill to her writing which lets me pass up her DRUGS YOBS OMG moments because I’m so keen to see what she does next.
I find Forest an education in writing and I think, it’s particularly acute, when we see the notes of growth in the family throughout the series. Even I, with my patchy knowledge of the Marlow family, can see it and I sort of love the relationships throughout. (And one of the things I really love is the way everybody’s always “OH ANNE GET A GRIP”)
There’s a lot of churchiness in this book and it’s something I feel frankly unable to comment on with any veracity. What I did find myself doing was something I do when Brent-Dyer gets her church on, I sort of slide past it. There’s a lot I can forgive / disregard when a writer is this damn good.