The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff

This is Week 8 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

The morning of her wedding day, seventeen-year-old Pell mounts her horse, Jack, scoops up her mute little brother Bean, who insists on joining her, and gallops away from her small English village into a new life.  So begins Meg Rosoff's latest book, "The Bride's Farewell."

Pell has left behind her childhood sweetheart and her fear of ending up like her mother, worn out and drained of joy from giving birth to nine children.  She’s making for the great Salisbury Fair. There she hopes to use her unerring ability to discern a horse’s temperament with just one look to make enough money to pay for food and lodging. Things look up when she and Bean are taken in by a gypsy family at the fair, and Pell is hired to help a horse dealer identify good buys.  But within a day, Pell has lost her money, her horse and, worst of all, her brother.
 
Pell’s quest to find Jack and Bean again takes her on a circuitous path that leads to the horrors of the workhouse, to work as a baker, to fending off unwanted advances, to an idyllic interlude living with a poacher in his remote cottage, and finally to a bittersweet reunion with her beloved horse and her little brother.
 
Rosoff sets many hurdles in Pell’s path, and her villains are almost the equal of any in Charles Dickens.  I warmed to Pell’s strength of character and ability to cope with whatever life sent her way.  Though I’m not a horse-lover, Rosoff clearly is, and some of the best passages have to do with Pell’s riding, like this one:
 
For those poor souls who can only think of the terrible fear and danger of a runaway horse, think of this: a speed like water flowing over stone, a skimming sensation that hovers and dips while the world spins around and the wind drags your skin taut across your bones.
 
If you like a good picaresque novel with distinctly etched characters, a strong sense of place, and a satisfying ending, I think you'll love this. Though the book was published for adults, my guess is that lots of older teens  will enjoy it. Note: if you are a fan of Rosoff’s books for teens, like “the way I live now,” be aware that this, though wonderful, is as different as could be from what she’s written before.
 
Visit the author's website here.  Watch the author talk about the book below.