Wednesday 27 June 2018

The Girl In The Abbey By Jessica Collett - Young Fiction Review (age 9-11+)

The Girl In The Abbey is the story of 10 year old Violet, sent away from everything she knows to live with strangers in a strange land and help work for her keep. There are no other children where she is sent, and she is left with nothing to do but explore... Then she meets Sarah...

Violet is a refugee in the second world war, which is an unusual time period for a modern book, but it all feels very natural and nothing about the history or setting seems out of place, despite the fact that the author is very young (clearly neither of us were there ourselves). I even learned a couple of new WW2 facts (and I will never cook with paraffin).

Violet is sent from the industrial port of Grimsby to a small rural village, where she is placed at Bramblingham Abbey, or more correctly the gardeners cottage to the Abbey, where 'Whiskers' the aging and warm-hearted gardener does his very best to care for her.

The lady of the Abbey, Lady Audrey, is a recluse who hasn't left her house or taken visitors in many years. The Abbey is out of bounds to Violet, as are parts of the gardens, once glorious and now overgrown and little used. She is tempted to explore further though, especially when she meets another young girl, Sarah.

Clearly there are secrets in the old Abbey and it sounds an amazing place to visit. Inspired by Calke Abbey and mentioning places such as Chatsworth, I can picture this perfectly, possibly because I grew up in Derbyshire myself. Vegetable gardens and fountain courtyards with crumbling walls and a huge grand building almost empty of people. Violet doesn't take much convincing to explore more of the Abbey and gardens, and is rewarded with priest holes and secret tunnels, amongst other things.

The storyline reminds me a little of several stories I read as a child, but despite the wartime setting, the language is modern and will appeal to youngsters in 2018. This is a rewarding book, and quite rightly you begin to put the puzzle pieces together just when the main character does (or a little ahead if you are also 46 and have read thousands of books).

The details about the war are interesting and paint a good picture of what home life may have been like, so this is ideal for any youngster studying WW2, evacuees or child refugees at school. Realising a piece of hard bread counted as a meal and 2 outfits comprised a full wardrobe will be a shock to most children living in the UK today...

I really enjoyed The Girl In The Abbey. This is a great adventure story which is ideal for confident young readers. The leading characters are female, strong and fierce, but human and very likeable. Not at all scary, but quite thought-provoking and featuring a cast of genuinely nice people, as you finish the book you are left with a satisfying feeling that all could be well in the world.

The Girl In The Abbey is written by Jessica Collett and published by The Book Guild Publishing. Recommended for teenagers and young adults, but with 150 pages it isn't too mighty a tome or too complicated to deter younger confident readers. I would have very much enjoyed this book at 10 years old, or 14 years old, or now. 

The Girl In The Abbey is available now rrp £7.99, including from Amazon (currently reduced, affiliate link*).

My copy of The Girl In The Abbey was sent for review. The Amazon link* is afffiliate, which means I'd earn enough for a lollipop if you bought through my link, but you wouldn't pay any more. They tell me it all adds up. 


  1. This sounds like an interesting book. I just finished one that included the Vietnam War as a backdrop. Thanks for the comprehensive review.

    1. Hiya Jenny - you are very welcome! Thank you for reading. I'm glad you found it useful. The Vietnam War would really be a very different setting - possibly more 11+ than 7+ I'd imagine! :)


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