The Exiles At Home
It is the end of the autumn term when we meet the Conroy sisters anew. Each of the four girls returns with bedraggled, disappointing school reports, though Naomi’s is rather confusing- ‘one of the worst-motivated boys in class‘. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the Conroy girls. Christmas and a £10.00 gift for each initiates more. One sister commits to a post office savings plan that confuses her and the post office staff, while another fritters it on a series of incidentals. A third sister deposits her note into an antique train from which nothing can ever be removed. The fourth, yet eldest, commits to a charity scheme upon which she lies about her age; this commitment impacts upon each of the four girls and their year in ways they cannot imagine.
I love The Exiles and was bereft when the girls left their Big Grandma for home. I doubted its sequel could hope to meet the quality of storytelling; how wrong I was. ‘The Exiles at Home‘ is warm, funny, original and real. Though published more than 25 years ago, and reprised in this edition, the story is fresh. Hilary McKay has created four girls who delight, horrify and engage us. We love Ruth’s reckless dreaminess, Rachel’s gluttony, Naomi’s determination and Phoebe’s wilfulness. They may despair their parents and Martin the good, but we recognise their goodness, curiosity, thoughtlessness and pleasing lack of artifice. I recommend ‘The Exiles at Home‘ without hesitation. The story is the second of a trilogy, though it works alone perfectly.
Winner of the Smarties Prize