My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My love for school stories is fairly blatant. I’m a sucker for the Chalet School and have spent many happy hours at St Clares and Malory Towers. I even bought Wild Child on dvd just so I could check out how that boarding school compared. So I was really happy to pick up Beswitched as it seemed to combine a lot of my loves – plus I’d heard a lot of positive things about in on various mailing lists.
Flora Fox, modern schoolgirl, is caught in a magic spell on the way to her lovely modern shiny boarding school. It pulls her back in time to the more prosaic surroundings of St Winifred’s – 1930s boarding school.
Beswitched is a really charming little book. I admit I was pretty firmly predisposed towards loving it because of my school story obsession but I did enjoy it. Unfortunately it was over a little too swift! Flora’s growth as a character is believable and I really liked how she was slowly but inevitably drawn into loving her 1930s experience as this sort of paralleled my own reason for loving this genre of books.
There were a few excellent moments where Flora forgets that she has great knowledge of the future. And, to echo Uncle Ben, with great knowledge comes great responsibility. This is something that Flora particularly comes to understand as she realises that World War Two is just around the corner…
The supporting cast is a little bit drawn on cliche but again that’s part of the genre that Saunders was working with. School stories do tend to draw the characters a little sketchily (primarily because they are usually so many of them!) so when we do get character development – such as the sub-plot between Flora and Consuela – these moments are much appreciated.
I felt that perhaps it wasn’t quite what I was expecting as a novel but I appreciate that that’s because I’m soaked in this genre. I also have to admit that the presence of the fox on the front cover totally passed me by until I started to write this review (Flora FOX .. get it? Took me a while…).
It was however ultimately a very diverting and pleasant read. I don’t imagine I’ll be going back to it though and that’s why it’s a 4/5 stars for me. It missed that *magic* that draws me back to school stories as a rule.