Book Review: Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

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Adventure, freedom, and the enormity of growing up are at the heart of Katherine Rundell’s beautifully charged new novel, Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms.

cartwheeling in thunderstormsEven a life on the untamed plains of Africa can’t prepare Wilhelmina for the wilds of an English boarding school in this lovely and lyrical novel from the author of Rooftoppers, which Booklist called “a glorious adventure.”

Wilhelmina Silver’s world is golden. Living half-wild on an African farm with her horse, her monkey, and her best friend, every day is beautiful. But when her home is sold and Will is sent away to boarding school in England, the world becomes impossibly difficult. Lions and hyenas are nothing compared to packs of vicious schoolgirls. Where can a girl run to in London? And will she have the courage to survive?

From the author of the “witty, inventively poetic” Rooftoppers comes an utterly beautiful story that’s sure to be treasured.

I was immediately captivated by Will’s life on the African farm — the freedom and feeling of joy she finds in each little corner of her world. I could feel, smell, taste her world — the dust, the food, the animals, the savannah. Will’s Africa came to life for me within the pages of Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms — so much so, that like Will, I felt cooped up and trapped by the stark contrast she faced in her English school.

With echoes of A Little Princess, Rundell uses Will’s experience being forced from her home in Africa to a constrictive school in London to illustrate the harshness of growing up. The fear that we will lose ourselves in trying to become who society wants us to be.

But ultimately, the message of Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms is liberating and reassuring. Yes, we have to make sacrifices in life. Yes, growing up is hard and sometimes painful. But it does not mean letting go of the past; of who you are. It is about a shift in how you approach the world; in facing the change you can’t escape while remaining true to yourself.

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms is in stores August 26th.

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