By Magda Szabo

So I shall tell you, but there will be a price. From this moment onwards, Gina, your childhood is over. You are now an adult, and you will never again live as other children do. I am going to place my life, and yours, and that of many other people, in your hands…Can you be true to your word, even when you feel you can bear it no longer?” “I shall be true,” Gina replied.

As the story of a young privileged and coddled teenage girl’s challenges in adapting to the alien environment of a strict girls boarding school, this book would be entertaining enough. But it is also the story of the adults around her. What makes it special, is that we only see those adults through the shallow perspective of the 14-year-old teenage girl brain. Magda Szabo provides the reader plenty of insights and clues into who the adults in the story really are, their feelings, characters, and their secrets. But they are hidden very effectively from our heroine, Gina, as intelligent as she is, until the end. We must always separate Gina’s viewpoint to figure out the truth and this provides a wonderful tension throughout the book. Of course, her relationship with the other girls is developed as well. Gina behaves badly in her pride and arrogance and their revenge is cruel and implacable but strangely just. Will she be welcomed back into the fold? What will soften their hearts? But childhood games and conflicts take second stage as Gina’s growth progresses. It is 1944 and we are in Nazi-occupied Hungary. There is darkness and horror beyond the gates.

It is a coming of age story. She makes a great leap in maturity especially after her father is forced to reveal why he has separated himself from his beloved daughter and put her in such a harsh and strict environment. Even the reader, unless he read the prologue (which should have come with a spoiler alert,) doesn’t fully understand completely. It is somewhat of a mystery. There are a number of mysteries but it is also a thriller, a historical drama, and a bit of a romance. Is it a fantasy as well? Well, that is one of the mysteries.**5 out of 5 stars**

May 8, 2020

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