‘The Exiles’ is the debut novel from Hilary McKay. She introduces us to Rachel, Naomi, Ruth and Phoebe Conroy, sisters of character, curiosity and reading devotion.
The school year staggers to a close. Thoughts are turning toward summer, and books to be read, places to be explored. However fate has other ideas in the form of a bequest for the Conroys. Though the girls take this to mean a change in their individual fortunes, their parents have plans for the money that necessitate the girls becoming ‘The Exiles’. They’re off to Cumbria and the charge of their Big Grandma.
Big Grandma brooks no nonsense. She believes the girls are illogical, fey, irresponsible and ill-mannered. In an effort to reform them, the sisters find her home bereft of books. Further, there are chores to be done, walks to be taken, deadlines to be met. Something changes in the company.
We readers are party to something quite magical, that leaves us laughing, warm, satisfied and longing for further encounters with ‘The Exiles’. Big Grandma and the Conroy girls are not the only ones saddened at summer’s end.