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Jem McCrail is a fantastical godsend to the timid young Alice Pilling. "Like a dropped acorn," she appears halfway through the week, halfway through the term, and halfway through Miss Aldridge’s Silent Reading Hour. Through the doorway she barely clears, wearing clothes like the urchin she encountered in her favorite P. G. Wodehouse story, Jem leads the stammering Alice into a world of culture, truancy, and bizarrerie--a world far beyond the dull lessons of school. The girls cultivate a steadfast bond based on a wicked and encircling sense of humor, an impish joy in indelicate literature, and Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Then, as abruptly as she came, Jem disappears.
The years and schools that follow, as well as the lovers, do not dim the image of the wondrous Jem. The disheartened Alice is almost ready to settle into an ordinary life when an accident and the intervention of a latter-day fallen angel impel her to go on one more wild and extravagant journey. Like the opera it echoes, the result is pure enchantment.
"Why did it take me so long to discover the singular joys of Barbara Trapido’s novels? Why, for so many years, had I missed these witty, soulful, heartbreaking, expansive, brilliant tales? I have become a literary evangelist on her behalf. On account of my badgering, all my friends now love her, too.I won’t rest until everyone in America has read (and fallen in love with) this fabulous author." --Elizabeth Gilbert