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Image / Editorial

5 books to read if you’re fascinated by boarding schools (whether you went to one or not)


by Grace McGettigan
28th Feb 2020
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These five books are perfect for anyone who’s interested in boarding school – whether you attended one yourself or not


Boarding school can seem like an otherworldly concept for some people, especially if your only experience of education was in a community school setting. I always wondered what it would be like to pack up my bags and be sent away to learn. What would the living conditions be like? Are the teachers also your guardians at night? How many people would I have to share a dorm with? Would there be midnight feasts?

I recently spoke to past and present pupils about what boarding school was like for them, but their stories sucked me down a rabbit hole and now I need to know more. If, like me, you can’t get enough of boarding school life, here are five brilliant books to satisfy your craving:

Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld

This New York Times bestseller follows Lee Fiora, a shy fourteen-year-old, who leaves small-town Indiana for a scholarship at Ault, an exclusive boarding school in Massachusetts. Her head is filled with pictures from the school’s brochure of handsome boys in sweaters leaning against old brick buildings, girls running with lacrosse sticks across pristine athletics fields, everyone singing hymns in chapel. But, she soon learns that the school is a minefield of unstated rules and rituals. Will she find her place in the pecking order?

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

If classics are your thing, give this novel by Charlotte Brontë a read. Based on the author’s personal experience as a teacher in Brussels, the story is one of repressed feelings and frustration in a Catholic girls’ boarding school in France.

Old School, by Tobias Wolff

Initially published as short stories in The New Yorker, this novel documents a boy’s journey through an elite prep school in 1960. He is an outsider who has learned to mimic his more privileged classmates. Like many of them, he wants more than anything on earth to become a writer. But to do that he must first learn to tell the truth about himself.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, by Anton DiSclafani

Fancy a good coming-of-age story? The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is about a 15-year-old girl called Thea who is sent away after doing something ‘terrible’ with a boy. She arrives at camp where she must share a cabin with five other girls. There are boys there too… will she land herself in more trouble than ever before?

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Interested in sci-fi? This novel was written by a Nobel Prize-winning author and was shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize. It follows Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy who were once students at an exclusive boarding school with very mysterious rules. They reunite years later to reflect on their unique past.

Feature photo: Unsplash


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