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*****= An all-time favorite
****Gilbert and Sullivan Set Me Free
by Kathleen Karr
Reviewed April 22, 2005.
Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 2003. 226 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005 (#3, Young Adult Historical Fiction)
I was feeling down and wasn’t in the mood for a dark and depressing story. I wanted to find a feel-good story that wasn’t fluff, and Gilbert and Sullivan Set Me Free filled the bill perfectly.
We aren’t sure why sixteen-year-old Libby has been sent to Sherborn Women’s Prison. We do know that she feels herself to be in a social status higher than the other inmates, but she still appreciates the mothering she gets from Ma McCreary, who’s in prison for life for killing her no-good husband.
Ma and Libby pass the time over their work in the laundry by singing. When the new chaplain hears their glorious voices, she forms a prison choir, and life begins to change at Sherborn.
As the book progresses, we learn more about Libby’s background, her fears, her relationships with the other inmates, and how she is affected by the chaplain and the glorious music. We see the stern superintendent begin to bend and change her focus from punishment to reformation. The author used an actual historical situation and setting.
This is a coming-of-age novel in a fascinating setting, turning an eye of humor and compassion on a forgotten group of people—female prisoners in America in 1914.
Review of another book by Kathleen Karr:
Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund. All