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The Bride's Farewell: A Novel

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Overview

Read Meg Rosoff's blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.

A tender and magical tale from an award-winning, international bestselling novelist

Pell Ridley, daughter of a good-for-nothing preacher in mid-nineteenth century England, has watched her mother crushed by the burden of too many children and too little money. Unwilling to repeat her fate, Pell runs away on her wedding day taking only her beautiful, white horse. But, as she ...

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The Bride's Farewell: A Novel

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Overview

Read Meg Rosoff's blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.

A tender and magical tale from an award-winning, international bestselling novelist

Pell Ridley, daughter of a good-for-nothing preacher in mid-nineteenth century England, has watched her mother crushed by the burden of too many children and too little money. Unwilling to repeat her fate, Pell runs away on her wedding day taking only her beautiful, white horse. But, as she journeys through a strange world of gypsies in search of a new life, Pell finds that her ties to home refuse to release her.

Like the works of Philip Pullman and Sue Monk Kidd, The Bride's Farewell will resonate with readers of all ages as it grapples with timeless questions of how to live, how to love, and how to be true to one's self.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Pell Ridley is the adventurous heroine in this serviceably told tale, the fourth novel for London-based Rosoff, who has written successfully for the YA market. On her wedding day, Pell leaves town on her faithful horse, Jack, grudgingly bringing along her mute younger brother, Bean. Pell shirks expectations and jilts her childhood beau, Birdie, with an oddly modern defiance of 1850s England convention. No matter that Birdie seems a nice enough man, unlike her abusive preacher father-Pell is stubborn in her desire to flee the domestic life in Nomansland that mires her mother in a sea of children and overwork. Pell arrives at the Salisbury horse fair and her adventures begin. She is separated from Bean and her horse but meets a poacher she dubs Dogman (he travels with a pack of dogs) and together they wander the countryside living on bread crusts and flickering hope. Pell's love and knowledge of horses factors largely in her fight for survival, but it's human love-romantic and familial-that drives plucky Pell and leads us to this simple but satisfying story's happy if unsurprising conclusion. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School—In rural 1850s England, a horse-mad young woman flees home on her wedding day. Fearful that her fiancé's promise of "a house full of children" will translate into a future of drudgery, Pell plans to visit the Salisbury Horse Fair. Her mute little brother insists on accompanying her, but when he and her horse disappear at the fair—along with the man for whom she's spent the day working and who still owes her money—Pell's vision of her future is drastically altered. The twists and turns along her new path bring her into contact with a wide variety of people, from the Gypsy family that helps her on her way to Dogman, to a taciturn poacher who becomes her savior. Rosoff's simple yet descriptive language paints a clear picture of a world both bleak and beautiful. Like the setting, the characters are many faceted. Nobody, including Pell, is entirely good or evil. Readers will appreciate her journey, both the external search for her brother and a place in the world for herself, and the internal pursuit of balance between familial responsibilities and personal satisfaction. Teens will relate to Pell's internal conflict and refusal to settle onto the path life seems intent to force upon her. Rosoff's first adult title is as finally crafted as her Printz Award-winning How I Live Now (Random, 2004).—Karen E. Brooks-Reese, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA
Kirkus Reviews
Two social outcasts find each other against a background of harsh social circumstances in a sorrowful tale from Carnegie Medal winner Rosoff (What I Was, 2008, etc.). There's a flavor of Thomas Hardy to the British novelist's story of survival and suffering in mid-19th-century southern England. Rosoff, author of several books for children and young adults, plunges readers straight into the story of Pell Ridley, whose impoverished family is dominated by her alcoholic, violent father. Accompanied by her mute stepbrother Bean, both of them riding on her horse Jack, Pell is fleeing the prospect of a loveless marriage to the simple-hearted boy next door. She has a gift for horses and wants better for herself. At Salisbury Fair, a horse-buyer, assisted by a poacher, offers cash in exchange for Pell's advice, but in the process she loses Bean, Jack and the money. Nevertheless, alone and on the road, Pell remains indefatigable and fortunate. A gypsy named Esther and her family offer advice, sustenance and a dog. Eventually Pell finds the poacher, a man of few words, who becomes her lover. Later she learns her parents have been killed in a fire; she must rescue her sisters from the workhouse. There's a blissful period while Pell works as a groom, but she can't rest until she finds both Bean and Jack. Fragmented and overloaded with coincidences, but emotionally engaging, treading the line between YA and adult fiction.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452296213
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/27/2010
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 742,723
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Meg Rosoff was born in Boston, USA. She has worked in publishing, public relations and most recently advertising, but thinks the best job in the world would be head gardener for Regents Park. Meg lives in Highbury, North London. She is the author of Just in Case, What I Was and How I Live Now.

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Read an Excerpt

One

On the morning of August the twelfth, eighteen hundred and fifty something, on the day she was to be married, Pell Ridley crept up from her bed in the dark, kissed her sisters goodbye, fetched Jack in from the wind and rain on the heath, and told him they were leaving. Not that he was likely to offer any objections, being a horse.

There wasn’t much to take. Bread and cheese and a bottle of ale, a clean apron, a rope for Jack, and a book belonging to Mam with pictures of birds drawn in soft pencil, which no one ever looked at but her.

The dress in which she was to be married she left untouched, spread over a dusty chair. Then she felt carefully inside the best teapot for the coins put away for her dowry, slipped the rope around Jack’s neck and turned to go.

Head down, squinting into the rain, she stopped short at the sight of a ghostly figure in the path. It had as little substance as a moth, but its eyes burned a hole in the dark.

“Go back to bed, Bean.”

It didn’t budge.

She sighed, noticing how the pale oval of a face remained stubbornly set.

“Please, Bean. Go home.” Oh God, she thought, no. But it was no use appealing to God about something already decided.

Without waiting to be invited, the boy scrambled up onto Jack, and with no other option she pulled herself up behind him, feeling the warmth of his thin body against her own. And so it was, with a resigned chirrup to Jack and no tear in her eye, that they set off down the hill, heading north, which at that moment appeared to be the exact direction in which lay the rest of the world.

“I’m sorry,Birdie,” whispered the girl, with a final thought for the husband that should have been. Perhaps at the last minute he would find another bride. Perhaps he would marry Lou. Anyone will do, she thought. As long as it isn’t me.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2009

    Dissappointing

    This book was like a rainy, gloomy day with no sunshine in sight. Every page was more depressing than the page before.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 27, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    from missprint.wordpress.com

    Strong-willed and more knowledgeable than most everyone when it comes to horses, Pell Ridley cannot reconcile herself to the stifling life of a married woman--not after seeing the endless monotony of poverty, child birth, and death played out in her own parents' household. Desperate for something more, Pell does the only thing she can. She leaves.

    Meg Rosoff's The Bride's Farewell (2009) starts on August twelfth, eighteen hundred and fifty something, the day Pell is to be married. She gets out of bed, kisses her sisters goodbye and goes outside to tell her horse, Jack, that they are leaving in the hopes of finding work at Salisbury Fair with one of the numerous horse merchants.

    The sudden decision of a young boy named Bean to accompany her does not change Pell's resolve though it will dramatically change her journey and force her to reconsider everything she thought she was running from.

    I really hated Rosoff's earlier novel How I Live Now and still don't entirely understand how it won the Printz Award in 2005 when, to me, it barely felt like a YA novel. I picked up The Bride's Farewell because the plot and the time period intrigued me. While I was surprised to find this novel not being marketed as a Young Adult title (it seems more YA than How I Live Now frankly), I am happy to say I was not disappointed.

    Short chapters tell the story of Pell's present departure as well as the story of Pell's past that led to her momentous decision. Rosoff's writing is sparse and somewhat utilitarian, a fitting style for a book set at a time when England was still reeling from the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution.

    Equally fitting to the period, perhaps, is the fact that parts of this novel are bleak and miserable to the point of being excessive. Except that, for real people of the time, such events often comprised everyday life. Without saying too much, the ending made such parts bearable.

    Pell spends much of the book wandering the English countryside at a time when communication and transportation between towns were minimal. Rosoff conveys this haunting sense of vastness and space with surprising vividness.

    The Bride's Farewell is intricately structured with characters and events intertwining in unexpected ways. As a result the book is filled with surprising twists that, by its conclusion, make perfect sense as parts of the whole.

    Possible Pairings: Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Hard Times by Charles Dickens

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