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The Bride's Farewell    by Meg Rosoff order for
Bride's Farewell
by Meg Rosoff
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday Canada, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Meg Rosoff, award winning author of How I Live Now, Just in Case, and What I Was, now brings us a most unusual historical coming of age in The Bride's Farewell. Her heroine, Pell Ridley, lives in 1850s rural England, daughter of an impoverished and drunken preacher who's unable to support his ever growing family. Instead, the children all work hard, according to their talents.

Though engaged to her childhood friend Birdie Finch, Pell flees just before the wedding on her horse Jack, accompanied (reluctantly on her part) by her young half brother Bean. Their destination is the horse fair at Salisbury, where she hopes to exploit her unique connection to horses to find work. Birdie wanted a 'house full of children', while Pell was driven to escape 'the grinding disappointment, the drudgery, the changelessness of life in this place.'

Though Pell and Bean suffer hardships, they're used to them and manage well. They meet a Gypsy woman in Salisbury, who helps them but has her own ax to grind with the Ridleys. Pell meets a man, Dogman, and helps his friend Harris buy horses for a fee. But Harris cheats her of her payment and, seeking him, she loses both Jack and Bean. Jack is sold to an aristocratic family, but Bean ends up in dire straits in the workhouse.

Searching desperately for her little brother, Pell acquires a dog she names Dickens and finds Dogman again. Dickens' injury brings Pell and the poacher together and, after she is hurt, Dogman helps her too. They live together for a time until a misunderstanding sends Pell on the road again. When she returns to Nomansland in search of Bean, she finds disaster and three of her sisters in the workhouse. She rescues two survivors.

It's quite an odyssey in a Dickensian world, in which the remnants of Pell's family are reunited and then separated again as each finds his or her place. Pell learns of their connection to the gypsies and of the hard consequences of her own actions, and she eventually achieves the equal relationship she's been seeking. The Bride's Farewell is a most intriguing story and, as always with Meg Rosoff, it's hard to guess where the road she takes readers on will end.

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