We were wandering through the graveyard, trying to find some privacy. Olivia had bought a penny farthing worth of Fairy Glen toffee chews and we were desperate to eat them. We had to be careful, though. Last week Miss Mountbank had caught us sucking sherbet on the way home from school. She’d pounced on us from a great height, her unfortunate nose more like a hawk’s beak than ever, and smacked us both on the back so violently that we choked.”
Opal’s life was good, she was part of a loving family, had a scholarship to go to the nearby girls school, dreamed of university, and had her best friend in the world by her side. That was all until her father got caught up in a tangle of money and deceit. Now her father’s in prison, her sister is determined to mess things up further and she has to go to work in Fairy Glen factory. Things are dire but at least Opal has her new boss – Mrs Roberts – to look up to, and a whole new world where she is more understood than ever before in the Suffragette movement. Can Opal manage to make her life a bit sweeter thanks to Fairy Glen?
I used to adore Jacqueline Wilson, and I mean adore. I dressed up as Mandy from Bad Girls for one primary school World Book Day and I undertook an in-depth analysis of The Illustrated Mum as part of my university dissertation. But since then I have read very little of the authors work and her later books have always passed me by. Thankfully Opal Plumstead landed, with a thump may I say, on my doorstep and now I’ve read it I can safely say that I’m glad Wilson is still writing!
Wilson has a fantastic ability to suck you in to girls’ lives who are going through tough times, for you to rally them on, keep them going and hopefully see them through to better days. Opal Plumstead is no different story wise and I did see similarities in the book to the others I have read before by the author. But what made it so special was the setting and how that had an effect on the live of Opal.
It was set in 1913/14 and it really captured the atmosphere of the time. That era was a time of major change for England, and a lot of that change did herald from London, so its natural that Opal got to see a fair bit of it. I loved that she bore witness to meetings of the Suffragette movement and met Emmeline Pankhurst within the book. She also saw the start of the war and it did change her character by the end of the book. The mixed views of the Suffragette movement in particular were aired throughout the book and the changes in society’s views could also be seen in it.
I loved that Wilson set a book at this time because her writing makes it incredibly interesting and by dipping the reader, who remember could be as young as 8 or 9 if the target audience is met, in to this world the way Wilson does, she may just entice them into finding out more about the movement… I really hope she does!
The writing is as you would expect from a Wilson book, its brilliant but simple and easy to read so its not too much of an issue of the targeted middle grade reader. The size of Opal Plumstead may put off some more reluctant readers as it does come in at a hefty 525 pages, but its large font and illustrated (By Nick Sharrat, of course!) chapter headings make that 525 pages look like nothing.
Opal Plumstead was a brilliant way for me to reintroduce myself into Jacqueline Wilson’s book again and I am very tempted to go back and pick out a few others that I have missed, like Hetty Feather and the like. If you have a keen historian or a bookworm who tends to like this kind of story and you want them to drop a little more history into the mix then Opal Plumstead is a must. I know I would have been moved by it had I been 9 or 10 when reading!Opal Plumstead was Jacqueline Wilson’s 100th published book. It was published by Doubleday Children’s Books on October 9th 2014. My copy was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. To buy the book or for more info please visit: Amazon | Hive | Goodreads | Author website