What parent doesn’t want the best for their child? What parent doesn’t sometimes feel overwhelmed by the responsibility? What parent doesn’t respond to offers to be guided, helped and offered the best for their child?
When Claudia finds that her four-year-old son, Henry, is being ‘difficult’ at nursery, she’s embarrassed and ashamed, thinking that her inexperienced, unsupported partnering attempts are to blame. It’s then that a teacher jokingly suggests that Henry might be better off at The Hawthorne School, an idea which is backed by Claudia’s only friend, Maggie.
The school itself is a seemingly magical place of wonder and perfect calmness, where the children are encouraged to spend time with nature and learn at their own pace, and Henry is instantly transformed into a model child. He adores his teacher, is calm and obedient at school, and only reverts to his previous behaviour when he’s at home. Claudia, understandably, wants as much of this school as she can get. And that’s the problem.
I found the character of Claudia to be completely relatable, and I could completely identify with her struggle to make the best decisions for your child without having the gift of hindsight. The setting of The Hawthorne School is also very appealing, and its old bricks, secret tunnels and forbidden forest will evoke a Hogwarts-like atmosphere for many readers.
If I’m honest, then I found that the plot took a while to get going and that the ending was rather rushed. Without giving away spoilers, I would personally have liked a few more glimpses of the characters from the end of the novel earlier on.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I”d categorise it as a psychological suspense with a touch of fantasy and I think that it would be enjoyed by both YA and adult readers, although it may particularly appeal to younger parents. I’d certainly be interested in reading further titles by Sylvie Perry.
‘The Hawthorne School’ is due to be published on 7th December 2021. Thank you to NetGalley UK and the publisher for this ARC in return for my honest review.