November 11, 2010

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place

Wonderful dialog, quirky characters and much to like in this character-driven novel of a young girl standing up to tyranny and bullying in various forms.

First, Margaret Rose Kane has to deal with a pack of girls at summer camp that passive/aggressively taunt her and generally make life miserable.  On top of this, the  camp director is a controlling and rigid personality that is just unable to deal with Margaret once she begins channeling Bartleby the Scrivner with her, "I prefer not to" game she starts playing.

Then, once rescued from this camp and allowed to live at 19 Schuyler Place with her Hungarian great-uncles.  Just when you begin to think Margret, despite being a quote-unquote victim, is becoming a bit grating these delightful uncles and their truffle-seeking dog Tartufo rescue the book.

These guys have spent the past 40-50 years building these strange and apparently beautiful towers on their property that the new homeowner's association wants, of course, to have demolished.  The rest of the book is how the characters unite around Margaret's desire to fight off this fresh new tyranny.

So, I mostly liked the book and many of the characters and the ending is particularly satisfying.  But Margaret herself?  Meh.

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place


Jenny said...

I finally read this last summer. I'd had it waiting to be read since it came out in paperback and I'd heard the author at the National Book Festival. I greatly enjoyed the book.

I wonder if we have a gender issue here. I enjoyed Margaret, partly I think because I remember being that age. I could identify with her.

C.B. James said...

My students have had mixed reactions. It's difficult to get them to read the book becuase of the odd title and because both editions have dull covers. But I have convince several book groups to give it a go.

A few love it, some like it, some have said meh.

I think it's really two books: Margaret at camp and Margaret defending the towers. She is problematic. Is she a victem at camp? I felt much of her difficulty came from her own attitude. Fortunately, her attitude was just what she needed to defend the towers. I think she's a fighter in search of a fight.

I'm glad she found one worthy of her.