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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


***The Exiles

by Hilary McKay

Reviewed August 16, 2003.
Hodder Children’s Books, London, 2001.  First published in 1991.  191 pages.
Winner of the Guardian Award.
Out of print in America, but available on

I absolutely loved Hilary McKay’s book, Saffy’s Angel, so I was delighted to find The Exiles in a small bookstore in Oban, Scotland.

Hilary McKay is a master of stories about big families.  Okay, the families aren’t nearly as big as the one I grew up in—only four children in this case—but somehow she captures the essential chaos of a bunch of kids interacting without a lot of supervision from adults.  There are moments when I think she must have grown up in a family exactly like mine, even if the surface details are different.

The Exiles of the title are the four Conroy girls—Ruth, Naomi, Rachel, and Phoebe.  Their parents have inherited a large sum of money.  Instead of dividing it equally with the girls, they’ve decided to pack the kids off to Big Grandma’s and spend the money on remodeling the house.

Big Grandma believes the girls read too much.  They don’t find any books in her house except cookbooks and Shakespeare.  She takes them on a hike up a mountain that makes all their muscles sore.  She keeps them busy with chores.  She does let them cook on the beach, but she gets upset when they bury the dishes and then can’t find them again.

This book reminds me of Rainbow Valley, by L. M. Montgomery, the Old Favorite I reviewed last week.  The Exiles is also a book about a bunch of kids who don’t always think before they act and get into a series of scrapes.  It’s a warm, funny, family tale, with more of Hilary McKay’s quirky characters and inspired mayhem.

Sequels to The Exiles:
The Exiles at Home
The Exiles in Love

Reviews of other books by Hilary McKay:
Caddy's World
Saffy's Angel
Indigo's Star
Permanent Rose
Caddy Ever After
Forever Rose
Lulu and the Duck in the Park
Lulu and the Dog from the Sea
Lulu and the Cat in the Bag
Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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