The Broken Girls

The Broken Girls - Simone St. James

[I originally got a copy through Edelweiss.]

“The Broken Girls” intertwines two storylines: that of four students at Idlewild Hall in 1950, and that, in 2014, of Fiona Sheridan, a journalist whose elder sister was found murdered twenty years ago—at Idlewild. As Fiona investigates the family who’s just bought the old school to refurbish it, haunted by what happened to her sister, the discovery of yet another body on these ground sends her into looking more and more into the past, and to unveil what happened to the girls.

The story was relatively gripping, but the 1950 part interested me much more, perhaps because reading about the girls and their friendship in a place where all the pupils were more or less rejected by their families: orphans with only remote relatives who didn’t want to bring them up, girls who witnessed something horrible, girls who were assaulted, or illegitimate daughters… Idlewild Hall had that reputation of “a school for girls who cause problems”, but a lot of those problems were the product of that time more than of the children themselves: people didn’t want to talk about the fruit of adultery, or about that girl who couldn’t speak after being traumatised, so they bundled them up to that boarding school to get rid of them. And through these different yet oddly similar stories, the bond that united the four friends developed into a really strong one, that was so easily felt throughout their chapters.

By contrast, Fiona’s story was more… conventional. A journalist with her relationships troubles, still trying to come up to grips with her sister’s murder, wanting to investigate the place of said murder, uncovering quite a few things that hadn’t been spoken of at the time… Not uninteresting per se, but not particularly exciting either.

In a way, I also felt that the 2014 arc tried to deal with too many things at the same time: was the murderer really the culprit, or was he set up; Deb’s murdered (almost every chapter); a ghost; corruption; the motives of the wealthy family who bought the Hall; tragic pasts dating back to World War II… Some of these weren’t fully exploited—the ghost subplot, for instance, felt like it was hovering between bona fide supernatural, and something with a completely mundane explanation, and in the end, the whole thing fell flat.

Conclusion: I would’ve liked this much more if it had been all about the girls in 1950, to be fair.