“This summer’s first romantic page turner.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Named a most anticipated book for Summer 2013 by The Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly and USA Today, NPR, and People summer reads pick
A lush, sexy, evocative debut novel of family secrets and girls’-school rituals, set in the 1930s South
It is 1930, the midst of the Great Depression. After her mysterious role in a family tragedy, passionate, strong-willed Thea Atwell, age fifteen, has been cast out of her Florida home, exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. High in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with its complex social strata ordered by money, beauty, and girls’ friendships, the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a far remove from the free-roaming, dreamlike childhood Thea shared with her twin brother on their family’s citrus farm—a world now partially shattered. As Thea grapples with her responsibility for the events of the past year that led her here, she finds herself enmeshed in a new order, one that will change her sense of what is possible for herself, her family, her country.
Weaving provocatively between home and school, the narrative powerfully unfurls the true story behind Thea’s expulsion from her family, but it isn’t long before the mystery of her past is rivaled by the question of how it will shape her future. Part scandalous love story, part heartbreaking family drama, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is an immersive, transporting page-turner—a vivid, propulsive novel about sex, love, family, money, class, home, and horses, all set against the ominous threat of the Depression—and the major debut of an important new writer.
*Starred Review* Set in the 1930s, full of alluring descriptions, and featuring a headstrong lead character, this is a literary novel that is also full of scandal, sex, and secrets. Fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell has been banished from her Florida family and sent to an exclusive equestrienne boarding school located high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Homeschooled along with her fraternal twin, Thea had lived an overprotected and insular existence until the tragic incident that triggered her ouster from the family. Thrust into a complicated social milieu of southern debutantes and their rigid pecking order based on money, lineage, and looks, Thea struggles with overwhelming feelings of guilt and homesickness as well as the challenge of fitting into her new school. But she also begins to feel her power, both because she knows she is beautiful and because she is an expert rider. Some readers will be put off by the book’s deliberate pacing and explicit sex scenes, but others will be held in thrall by the world so vividly and sensually rendered in a novel that is as sophisticated in its writing as it is in its themes. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This stellar debut novel was reported to have been bought for seven figures and has received blurbs from such high-profile authors as Curtis Sittenfeld and Lauren Groff. --Joanne Wilkinson
'I fell completely under the spell of Anton DiSclafani's amazing first novel and was gripped by its lush and dreamy evocations of Southern decorum, family secrets, and boarding school rituals. DiSclafani is wildly talented, and this is a sexy, suspenseful, gorgeously written book' Curtis Sittenfeld, bestselling author of AMERICAN WIFE 'DiSclafani's pitch-perfect details of time and place effortlessly drew me into this fantastic novel's authentic and alluring world' Laura Moriarty, author of THE CHAPERONE 'The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is so sexy, smart, and vividly drawn that I was surprised to remember that this novel is Anton DiSclafani's first. With such a big-hearted and atmospheric book, Ms. DiSclafani's talents should be celebrated far and wide' Lauren Groff, author of ARCADIA A fierce and tender portrait of a young woman caught amidst the converging crises of her family, her country, and her own complicated desires... It's a beautiful novel Aryn Kyle, author of THE GOD OF ANIMALS 'A clever and compelling coming-of-age novel' Glamour Magazine
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product(What's this?)
I loved this novel, at first - it's set in a tumultuous time (the Great Depression), in two equally rich and wondrous locations (the orange groves of central Florida and the majestic mountains of North Carolina), and it tells the gripping coming of age tale of a bold and somewhat esoteric girl named Thea Atwell (fraternal twin, accomplished equestrian, sheltered upper cruster). As the story opens Thea is being sent away to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls in North Carolina. She's been exiled from her Florida home for some unknown transgression, and the narrative alternates between her time at Yonahlossee and the previous year at home in Florida, slowly revealing exactly what happened to get her sent away.
The story is compelling and beautifully written, but as it moved along I found Thea to be more and more unlikable and unsympathetic. She's selfish and cruel and unstable, and I had issues in particular with her weird and aggressive sexuality. There are a lot of sexual encounters, both at home and at Yonahlossee, and they're bizarrely graphic in a "hard nipples through my thin nightgown" and "his fingers inside me" sort of way. I kept rolling my eyes and wondering how this story went so far off the rails and turned into Fifty Shades of Grey. And as others have noted, Thea's sexuality is much more dysfunctional and disturbing than it is scandalous, which seems a failure on the part of the book. It's like the author wanted to write something bold and empowering but ended up with something strange and sad. So towards the end of the book I felt like it had slipped from 5 stars to maybe 2.
Now that I'm finished and have taken some time to reflect on the book, I'm thinking maybe the author accomplished exactly what she meant to. She wrote a complicated, imperfect, totally screwed up character who still manages, at times, to be loving, brave and kind. Thea is very much a product of her circumstances, and looking back I think she does the best she can with what she has. Most importantly, she survives, and she learns to accept herself for who she is. Sure, she makes some terrible choices - but haven't we all? I think that's why I resented her so much at times; she evokes many of the things I dislike, and fear, about myself. But this makes Thea an honest, if flawed, character, and that's something I can appreciate.Read more ›
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product(What's this?)
I guess I should say it quickly and get it over with. I did not love The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. I am most definitely in the minority but this certainly will not be the book of the summer for me. I should preface that I loved "Gone Girl" and "Indiscretion" and initially this book reminded me of "Prep" which I thought was outstanding. While this book effortlessly transported me to the 1930 Great Depression, for me it told a story that was hard to like. While it kept me reading, I found Thea's choices not scandalous just disturbing. Probably one of the few books I can think of where the subject matter was so objectionable.
15 year old Thea Atwell lives a sheltered life with her mother, father and twin brother. The story takes place during the Great Depression, however, Thea's family is well off. Her father is a respected country doctor and her mother has family money. Thea spends her days outside with her beloved twin brother Sam and her horse. The only visitors to the house are her father's brother and his wife and son, Georgie. Georgie is attracted to Thea and these feelings are reciprocated with consequences. Thea is the twin to be sent away to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls. More a finishing schools for wealthy girls, for the first time, Thea comes to realize that there is more to life than what can be found in the small town in central Florida where she was raised.
Thea is initially incensed that she has been sent away from her family, but quickly becomes acclimated to boarding school life. She becomes best friends with Sissy, a popular girl whose friendship helps Thea to "fit in". She also has a rival at the stables in Leona, who is considered the best rider. Thea is fighting an inner battle between the guilt she feels over her part in her families mishap, and the anger she feels about being the twin that is sent away. While at school, Thea once again makes a consciousness decision to throw caution to the wind.
" I was fearless. It was a trait that served me well in the ring, and badly in life"
While Thea is able to make cursory observations about herself and those around her, as a central character she is very selfish. It was also difficult for me to discern why she was so irresistible except that she was readily available. Thea is not particularly clever, articulate or even the prettiest girl at camp. At the end of the book, her one selfless act is for her own gain and cannot be viewed as any kind of personal transformation. It is only around horses that Thea demonstrates any real connection or compassion. While I do understand that Thea's is a journey of self-acceptance, her callousness for others in her pursuit left me cold. I felt the plot was at times contrived and I was left with questions about certain of the secondary characters that were never properly answered.Read more ›
Take a little bit of E.M. Forster, a little bit of Chekov, some Jane Austen, Brideshead Revisited, 50 Shades of Grey, Sex and the City, and any dime-a dozen romantic fiction you can find, and mix well. Set the story in Depression-era North Carolina, add horses, and cross your fingers that the illusion will hold that you've just written a great debut novel so you don't have to pay back your advance before selling many many copies of your "work".
There were so many things I didn't buy about this novels' storyline and I am stunned (and a little depressed) by the gushing reviews and the hype the book has received. One things is certain; the writer knows about horses. That's the one thing that struck me as real. But the setting - I couldn't see it, other than the weather and glimpses of the surrounding landscape. The characters -stereotypical and romanticized, but most of all unreal. Sam is the animal loving brother with no personality beyond saving baby squirrels. Georgie the cousin is handsome and vague until the affair, when the description of his penis is the most lasting image. Thea, the narrator, seemed to me nothing but the invention of the writer; I have no idea who she is and what she wants. The musings upon "Mother and Father" and the isolated childhood of Sam and Thea - why? Why doesn't she love her parents? What is a "progressive childhood"? Disclafani writes about people who are not complex or interesting but trapped in their own personalities: Leona is always stoic and competitive and proud, Sissy sweet and a little foolish, Mary Abbott odd and insecure. Where is the conflict between the characters? More urgently: what is the main conflict, the core of this book?
Good fiction is magical, it creates a reality out of words on the paper. When you finish a book, you ideally want to feel changed on some level. You've had a good time, you've traveled somewhere, you've felt fear, worry, delight, or sadness. Maybe you've laughed, or feel deeply moved. This novel keeps you occupied, but that's all. It has all the ingredients of a novel: plot, dialogue, characters, etc. but that simply doesn't suffice. Where is the tension, the subtext, the actual core of the book? The end result is nothing but a jumble. The story doesn't come together because I as a reader simply don't believe it. I don't believe the sex scenes, the interactions between the characters, the setting, or the emotions. The ending is the worst. Suddenly, after weaving back and forth between past and present, the author, seemingly sick and tired of her own novel which is going nowhere exciting after all the buildup, summarizes the rest of her life and the reader is supposed to feel something about the "formative" time the narrator spent at Yonahlossee as she leaves her family behind. But that's the problem. I feel nothing. No, not true. I feel deep concern for where the publishing industry is heading, if there was actually a bidding war over this insubstantial, mediocre novel.Read more ›