Thank you to Berkley Publishing and Netgalley for the chance to read and review this novel.
The Broken Girls is everywhere on social media right now as one of this month’s Book of the Month choices, and definitely seems a worthy pick. This book has been beckoning me since November when I was approved to read it on Netgalley, but I haven’t had a chance to fit it in until now. Based on the blurb alone, I knew this would be an interesting story, but it ended up being so much more than I expected.
Torn between four and five stars, I decided to round up because of Simone St. James’ clever and deep plotting. There are numerous layers to the story, slowly fed to eager readers through the course of the book. The story effortlessly weaves through the past and modern day, interconnecting the two in the most interesting and unexpected ways.
Idlewild Hall shows its smiling, jagged teeth to every girl dropped at its doors. With a past as haunted as that of each of its inhabitants, it’s only fitting this boarding school is a place for the misfits and discarded girls of 1950. Four girls bond over their murky pasts and current fears, when suddenly one of them goes missing.
In 2014, the spooky Idlewild Hall is purchased to undergo renovations. When Fiona Sheridan, a local journalist, hears of the upcoming project, she decides it is the perfect chance to dig into the history of the eerie place where her own sister’s body was found 20 years prior. The circumstances surrounding Fiona’s sister’s murder never sat right with her, and she is determined to uncover the truth.
There is a shift happening in our culture, a huge wave of “out with the old, in with the new” in terms of mental illness awareness and the acceptance of women as equals in our world. Of course, there are still leaps and bounds to be made, but with modern books like this one and numerous others boasting these topics, it sure feels like our world is quickly changing. As we delve into the past perspectives of the girls at Idlewild Hall in 1950’s Vermont, it was easy to see how different life was in regards to both of the topics I’ve mentioned. Simon St. James does an exquisite job of capturing the past’s “buck up and get on with life” attitude through the stories of the forgotten girls at Idlewild Hall. I especially loved the bond between the girls at the boarding school, allowing them to become the family they didn’t have. Society’s rejects found love and acceptance in each other.
I can’t get enough of books with spooky homes or buildings holding long-buried histories, allowing the reader to uncover the pieces while getting a few chills up the spine in the process. I wasn’t expecting to be quite as spooked as was, however! This was definitely one I preferred to read in the daytime, but with a story so gripping I wasn’t able to put it down at night, staying up well past midnight to figure out the conclusion.
One of my favorite parts of The Broken Girls was learning about real-life Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. I have a huge passion for being able to learn through the stories I read, and it’s all the better when real history meets fiction. I was especially interested to learn about the female Nazi guards at Ravensbrück, as this was something I was completely unaware of. This was a well-researched and interesting read all-around.
I hope you will pick up The Broken Girls when it releases on March 20th or start reading it now if this was your BOTM pick!