Things a Bright Girl Can Do
by Sally Nicholls
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 1 Feb 2018 | Archive Date 31 Oct 2021
Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal 2019, National Book Award, Books Are My Bag Readers' Awards and the YA Book Prize
Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.
Evelyn is seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women's freedom.
May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who's grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.
But the fight for freedom will challenge Evelyn, May and Nell more than they ever could believe. As war looms, just how much are they willing to sacrifice?
'Nicholls has brought alive the young women of the past to empower the next generation' The Times
'Each voice is distinct, resonant and authentic... uniquely special' Guardian
'Romantic and inspiring' Sunday Times
'[A] chocolate box of a novel ... books such as this are all the more to be prized' Telegraph
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 5 members
The Suffragettes is a period of history that fascinates me that has little fiction written about it, so I loved this book. The story was really interesting and i adored the characters and found them and their struggles very relatable, it had romance, struggle, friendship, rebellion and so much more, it is a very special book that i think everyone should read.
Things a Bright Girl Can Do is an absolutely fantastic read from Sally Nicholls. It has everything a good read should have. Romance, friendship and the historical aspect. Being about the suffragettes it draws you in and immediately makes you believe in and champion the character, A very powerful and heartfelt read.
I LOVED this book from start to finish. I was captivated from the first page to the final full stop, swept up into the excitement of Suffragette life and the ever-increasing darkness of warfare.
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Our three heroines live very different lives. Evelyn, born into a high society, isn’t sure of what she wants out of life, but is angered that she doesn’t have the same options as her older brother. May is a Quaker, and has been raised by her equally socially-conscious mother. As a pacifist she outright condemns the violence of both the Suffragettes and the First World War, and among the liberal Quakers she is able to live a relatively open life as a lesbian (she identifies herself as a Sapphist, the contemporary term). Nell, on the other hand, was born into a working-class family and takes whatever work she can get to help her family make ends meet. Also queer, she generally chooses to wear boys’ clothes, but doesn’t have the benefit of knowing other queer people like May does.
At the start of the book, the three girls are in their early- to mid-teens. They believe so fiercely in their cause(s), sometimes to the point of naivety, that it was almost frustrating when they butted heads or found themselves unable to compromise. I absolutely loved, though, how they each grew through their own journeys. As they learnt more about the world they began to re-evaluate whether or not things are quite so black and white as they had first thought. It was so satisfying at the end, and I was weirdly proud of them, that by the end they still held the same convictions and beliefs but had a much better understanding of nuances and other people’s experiences.
(It’s worth noting that the right of women to vote is never questioned; rather, the best way to go about campaigning for it.)
Nell and May have a whirlwind romance, and while at the start I wasn’t sold – a bit too much insta-love – I soon came around and I was incredibly satisfied with the development and conclusion of their relationship (no spoilers!). It again felt very true-to-life, and it was great to read these two girls come to realise that life and love are much more complicated than they originally realised.
This was the perfect coming-of-age book, the characters growing up and coming into their own without losing the core of who they are or compromising their beliefs. I wish I had been able to read this when I was in my early teens, but I enjoyed it just as much – if not more – as an adult.
Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free copy for review. All opinions are my own.