Thursday, April 6, 2017
Bright Island, by Mabel Robinson
The book is a short novel, punctuated with some beautiful, although somewhat understated, Lynd Ward illustrations.
Thankful Curtis is the youngest of five siblings. Her four older brothers have long since married and moved to the mainland, and she remains on Bright Island with her practical Scottish mother and her gruff sailor father. She loves the rhythms of her days- early morning swims, sailing in her boat, and doing any of the manual labor that needs doing.
Unfortunately, her family doesn't see the life she loves as completely suitable for a girl. Her recently-deceased grandfather willed money for her education, and her family (and especially her meddling older sisters-in-law) have decided that this is the the year that Thankful will head to the mainland to attend school. Her mother has taught her all she can, and her father believes it's time for her to learn "what a girl's for." New clothes are chosen for her to replace her practical denim and overalls. But thankful does take a few things into her own hands- she immediately sails her girdle out to sea and drops it overboard, and refuses to live under the thumb of a sister-in-law while on the mainland. She decides to spend some of her inheritance to board.
The remainder of the book deals with Thankful's one year of school (she's sufficiently advanced from home study that she will be able to graduate after just two terms). She has to adjust to the school schedule, being surrounded by crowds, speaking in class, having a roommate, and not having constant access to the sea, while maintaining her own identity and choosing her own path.
It's a nice, gentle coming-of-age story and has a few similarities to the Anne of Avonlea miniseries that I was automatically a fan. It also occurs during the nice lull where the first World War is too far away for the protagonist to be affected by, and the second is not yet on the horizon.