Yours from the Tower

Candlewick/Walker. Jan. 2024. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536223194.
Gr 7 Up–It’s 1897, and Polly, Sophia, and Tirzah have just graduated from school, ready to take on the world. Polly teaches at an orphanage in Liverpool, Sophia is starting the London Season as her aunt’s charity case, and rebellious Tirzah is stuck in rural Scotland taking care of her mean-spirited grandmother. Separated in body, but united in spirit, the girls exchange letters in a round, by turns encouraging and joking as they help one another navigate the challenges of career, family, and romance. This is a world where few women have made exceptional progress—they admire the reporter Nellie Bly and read The Girl’s Own Paper adventures—but they are stuck trying to change the world in ordinary ways. Privilege is relative. Polly gets involved tracking down extended family for young brothers shunted to the orphanage by a stepmother, while she falls in love with the superintendent, Mr. Thompson, who uses polio crutches. Sophia finds herself torn between a boring, rich aristocrat and a charming, feckless bohemian. Tirzah teeters closest to disaster, making out with a caddish young blacksmith and then running away to Edinburgh in an attempt to find her long-lost mother. When her plans go awry, friendship cushions her fall. The voices of the three girls and their other correspondents are spot-on. The form of the novel feels contemporary (with letters like video-chats and telegrams as texts), while remaining true to the historical period.
VERDICT A delightful, addictive epistolary tale of female friendship and romance.

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