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Things a Bright Girl Can Do

Written by Sally Nicholls

Key Stage 3 Key Stage 4 Historical Fiction Romance / Relationship Stories

LoveReading View on Things a Bright Girl Can Do

An inspiring tale for young women (and men!) using history to explore the mores of society - and highlight how much society has (or hasn't) changed

UKLA Longlist Book Awards - 2019 | Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019 | February 2018 Book of the Month

This inspirational novel about three young Suffragettes from very different backgrounds is at once a riveting character-driven read, and an outstandingly rich account of British social history between 1914 and 1917.

Seventeen-year-old Evelyn is exasperated by the unfairness of a society in which her academically disinterested brother is afforded the expensive privilege of going up to Oxford while her genuine desire to broaden her mind is dismissed as pointless. “These university women lead very sad lives, I'd hoped for better things for you - a husband, and a family, and a home of your own,” her mother poo-poo’s. But, shirking familial disapproval, Evelyn joins the Suffragette movement and finds herself at the heart of a highly-charged rally, with serious repercussions. Then there’s May, a flamboyant fifteen-year-old who revels in being different and is encouraged to do so by her liberal Quaker mother. May is also a passionate Suffragette, and passionate, too, about Nell, a working class girl from Poplar. The flowering of their love and lust is brilliantly portrayed, as is the contrast between their respective backgrounds.

Then, the political conflict of WWI heralds personal conflicts for the three young women, not least when Nell’s desire to contribute to the war effort angers pacifist May. The nature and struggles of masculinity are also excellently explored through, for example, Nell’s brother who wrestles with "feeling much less of a man than he should be”. This novel is the perfect tribute to the incredible women who blazed a trail during the early twentieth century, and its inspirational scope and storytelling excellence cannot be praised enough. I loved it. 

Joanne Owen

Things a Bright Girl Can Do Synopsis

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?

Things a Bright Girl Can Do Press Reviews

Nicholls has brought alive the young women of the past to empower the next generation -- Alex O'Connell  The Times, Children's Book of the Week

Each voice is distinct, resonant and authentic... uniquely special -- Imogen Russell Williams   Guardian

Romantic and inspiring -- Nicolette Jones  Sunday Times, Best Books of 2017

[A] chocolate box of a novel ... books such as this are all the more to be prized   Telegraph

A perfect balm to a frustrating world   Buzzfeed

Timely, informative and hugely enjoyable... the book excels at what fiction is best at: inviting empathy and understanding for others   Irish Times

Things A Bright Girl Can Do is relevant for every generation   Evening Standard

A richly textured novel -- Geraldine Brennan  Observer, Best books of 2017

Inspiring and infuriating in equal measures, Things A Bright Girl Can Do is an utterly captivating novel. Sally Nicholls deftly weaves history and politics into the narrative with such a lightness of touch, it was impossible to stop reading. Immensely enjoyable -- Louise O'Neill

Fantastic. Conveys all the intricacies of the political and social situation in a way that's vivid, hard-hitting, funny and emotionally compelling. It feels like we're living it, rather than just learning about it.   Frances Hardinge

Hurrah for Sally! This is a lovely and engrossing novel about three girls caught up in the Suffragette movement and WW1. It's Sarah Waters for teens, pitch-perfect, historically accurate, very romantic and a jolly good read.   Robin Stevens

Tough, unsentimental and well realised -- Amanda Craig  New Statesman, Best Books of 2017

A fascinating and emotive read for any budding feminist   Scotsman

A captivating YA novel... Things a Bright Girl Can Do explores sexual identity, the grim realities of poverty and war and the fraught nature of first love. Its appeal will reach readers of any age. -- Sarra Manning  Red Magazine

Young women readers will be caught between admiration for the courage of their predecessors, and a growing disappointment that more has not changed in the intervening century  Big Issue, Kids Books of 2017

Book Information

ISBN: 9781783446735
Publication date: 1st February 2018
Author: Sally Nicholls
Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 432 pages
Year Groups: Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4
Topics: Historical Fiction, Romance / Relationship Stories

About Sally Nicholls

I was born in Stockton-on-Tees, just after midnight, in a thunderstorm. My father died when I was two, and my brother Ian and I were brought up my mother. I always wanted to write - when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to say "I'm going to be a writer" - very definite. I've always loved reading, and I spent most of my childhood trying to make real life as much like a book as possible. My friends and I had a secret club like the Secret Seven, and when I was ...

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