Madam by Phoebe Wynne
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I appreciate what the book wanted to attempt. I really do. I respect the author for just going for it and I know that the heart was in the right place while attempting this. But it fell so flat I wanted to tear the book apart, or perhaps cause some kind of forgivable vandalism.
Promising a theme of a gothic mystery set in a secluded Scottish girls prep school sounded so much fun. But I have never been more mad at a book. I’ve been disappointed, never so mad. If this book were a person I’d slap it so hard it’d have to get it’s broken jaw fixed medically.
Rose, the protagonist, was excited to be chosen as the youngest recruit in this 150 year old institution. Soon she realises it is a weird cult with poeple having no idea what life is like outside the halls of Caldonbrae. Rose had replaced her predecessor who was fired under mysterious cirumstances, and is not really determined to find out why until her students, the faculty and every living being on those grounds keep prodding her with “you don’t know anything” until 65% of the book.
I wanted to DNF it so bad at one point, then I decided to skim-finish it. Hell, even that was torture. The story is literally Rose, a passive, meek teacher roaming around like a hopeless lamb up fresh up for slaughter as she keeps bumping into mean girls, dumb girls, stalker girl, and some other kinds of ladies who as characters are so one dimensional I would happily watch BoJack thrice back to back if I wanted something dark and macabre to have meaning and also entertain me with 2D characters seeming life-like in front of these weird caricatures of human beings.
This book can be summed into one line: Pedophiles run an institution that stereotypes women and also has Japenese girls running around training to be Geishas. Really? I mean it is so ridiculous most of the time. The only redemption (I thought it may be) were the chapters of Greek and Roman queens, heroines and Goddesses that I hoped would tie the loose ends. They did not.
Rose is harassed, blackmailed, threatened, even heckled throughout the book while she tries to teach the girl women empowerment – but really doing nothing about it except whining. The book does not even start until 65% and until then theres literally “Madam, you don’t know anything” being repeated so many times it’s almost like a prayer chant by the students and faculty here just to “put Rose in her place”. Whatever action needs to be taken, is taken by these teenage girls who Rose taught. Rose does nothing even then.
I fact that this is being sold as a feminist book is the biggest farce, when the only semblance of anything remotely feminist in the book were the stories of the ancient heroines like Dido, Medusa, Lucretia etc. Rose is a numpty headed wuss who literally escaped the toxic madhouse after her students, mere children actually took some action. Now, I do not trust a lot of these popular book bloggers after they raved SO MUCH about this book I had to read it and then just rant about it like this. This book made me want to angry cry so much as it had no character development, no complexity in writing, and it was SO SLOW I FELT I GREW ABOUT TEN YEARS OLDER BY THE TIME I FINISHED IT. Can I have all the hours I spent reading this back?
I’m giving this book a 1 star ONLY because of those little chapters of historic ladies that have truly been torchbearers of feminism through the ages. This book is not remotely anything feminist. Sorry, but I never felt so badly about any book before.
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Madam by Phoebe Wynne