The Girl Savage by Katherine Rundell

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The Girl Savage by Katherine Rundell

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: What could have been an entertaining story of a girl brought up in Zimbabwe but sent to boarding school in England fails to hold the attention due to characters without any, well, character.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 240 Date: January 2011
Publisher: Faber Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0571254316

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In Zimbabwe, Nice Will Silver has lived all her life with her father Nice William Silver, his employer Nice Captain Browne, and her friend Nice Simon. But when Nice Captain Browne falls in love with Nasty Cynthia Vincy, Nice Will is uprooted from her roots and sent to an English boarding school, run by Nice Miss Blake and her assistant Nasty Mrs Robinson. How will she cope?

Oh, okay, I'll admit it. The characters don't really have Nice or Nasty before their name – but they may as well do, such is the lack of anything approaching a shade of grey in this story. You can tell within a page or so of everyone's introduction whether we're meant to love or hate them, and it's rather appropriate that I'm reviewing it on Boxing Day as it contains all the subtlety of a pantomime.

In fairness to Rundell, I actually think she's quite a good writer in many ways, to judge from this book. The descriptions of Africa are beautiful and when she's talking about people's looks she has a really nice turn of phrase – I particularly liked a girl being described as having 'patent-leather shoes' and a 'patent-leather sort of face to match'. It's just when these characters actually do something that things go wrong. The plot is fairly standard – nothing to write home about, the expected issues with fitting in for Will and her desperate effort to make things better. (Sorry, I'd like to go into more detail but we're halfway through the book or so by the time she gets to boarding school so it's approaching serious spoiler territory to talk too much about what she does when she gets there, and I try to avoid that.) That said, some of the sequences could have been enjoyable if I'd been able to bring myself to care about Will, or anyone else, more than I actually did.

The one-dimensional characters make this hard to recommend to anyone unless they're seriously desperate to read stories set in Africa and in English boarding schools, although the writing style makes Rundell an author who I'd probably actually give another try at some point in the future if she releases more books.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: Older readers will find [[Ruby Red by Linzi Glass]] to be a far more satisfying and complex story of Africa. They might also enjoy Follow Me Down by Tanya Byrne. Younger readers looking for the story of a misfit at boarding school will, I think, find The Worst Witch to the Rescue by Jill Murphy rather more entertaining.

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Buy The Girl Savage by Katherine Rundell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl Savage by Katherine Rundell at


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