Olivia: A Novel by Dorothy Strachey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Olivia" is the story of a teenage girl away at boarding school, and her intense feelings for one of the two women who run it. In some (good) ways, this reminds me of Nevada Barr's "Bittersweet" and Sylvia Brownrigg's "Pages For You", which are both favorites of mine, and both concern girls whose first loves are (somewhat) older women.
First love is gorgeous and awful and all-consuming and unforgettable; Olivia finds all that out first hand. Don't be misled...there is no sex and very little physical contact in this story, but the emotions burn red hot. It has the feel of a classic tragedy, and also of a really good YA novel of today.
The story is loosely based on Marie Souvestre's Allenswood Academy, attended by both the author and Eleanor Roosevelt, among many other notables of the first half of the 20th century. But this is not about anyone, really, except Olivia and Mlle. Julie. There were times when I had to set it down and just let a scene wash over me. It's very smoothly written, full of heart, joy and sadness; it simply blew me away. Highly recommended.
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