Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on July 12th 2010
When Will and Bet were four, tragic circumstances brought them to the same house, to be raised by a wealthy gentleman as brother and sister. Now sixteen, they’ve both enjoyed a privileged upbringing thus far. But not all is well in their household. Because she’s a girl, Bet’s world is contained within the walls of their grand home, her education limited to the rudiments of reading, writing, arithmetic, and sewing. Will’s world is much larger. He is allowed—forced, in his case—to go to school. Neither is happy. So Bet comes up with a plan and persuades Will to give it a try: They’ll switch places. She’ll go to school as Will. Will can live as he chooses. But once Bet gets to school, she soon realizes living as a boy is going to be much more difficult than she imagined.
Elizabeth, or Bet as she is fondly called, is the daughter of a maid and an unknown father. All her life, Bet has wanted a formal education. Yet due to her being female, this is out of the question. Will, a childhood friend, wishes to free himself of the educational constraints that have been placed upon him to pursue the military life. Enter Bet’s crazy idea… to switch places. Bet believes that it is possible for her to pretend to be Will so that she can pursue her dream while he is off living his dream. Sounds like an easy plan? Well, think again.
There are many things to love about The Education of Bet: support for female education in spite of the social norm of the time period, the idea of a girl pretending to be a boy, an interesting love interest. But something in the novel just felt missing. Maybe it was the lack of full on chemistry between Bet and James… or how easily everything fell into place throughout the novel… I am not completely sure.
Despite the lack of something, this was a really fun read. Baratz-Logsted created a wonderful female lead who was willing to go to extreme circumstances in order to pursue her dreams. I admired Bet’s determination and spunk numerous times throughout the novel. And I loved that she never wanted to give up despite the odds being against her. Will, the foil to Bet, was interesting. Unfortunately, he was not in the novel enough to really get a feel for his character.
The Education of Bet was a nice, quick read. The novel was not exactly what I was expecting to find, but I was pretty pleased, for the most part, with what I got.
- Readers who like a like historical element with their romance.
- Fans of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night