I wasn’t sure about School for Skylarks on my initial reading as I have always had a particular affinity with Eva Ibbotson’s The Dragonfly Pool and I think I was unfairly comparing Lyla and the book as a whole with this.
Lyla is deposited by her Dad at her Great Aunt’s enormous mansion to keep her safe during the war. However she bitterly fights against this for a great part of the story as she feels her Dad has stolen her away from her mum who she adored. As the story goes on it appears that Lyla’s own memory of what happened isn’t quite as it seems and her Great Aunt and other characters try to open her eyes to this. For the first part of the story she constantly tries to leave the house and get back to her mum in London. She is thwarted with good humour by her very caring (though she doesn’t appreciate this yet) extended family.
One of Lyla’s ideas to escape involves writing to the Ministry of Defence to offer up the grand house for military use. She believes she would then have to be sent back to her mother in London. Her letter is intercepted and taken note of but not for the reasons Lyla would like, instead a whole girl’s schools is relocated to her Great Aunt’s house.
This then moves the story on to meet a much wider range of characters – I think here it gets more absorbing as you really see more of Great Aunt Ada, Solomon her trusted butler and Lyla herself. Lyla hasn’t been to school and has had some very interesting tutoring which is rather at odds with Miss Pinnacle’s Garden Hill School for Girls.
The story evolves at a pace from here on and it is a touching read. There are issues around friendship, being who you are and also about things not always being as they seem. War is there as a dark cloud in the story and touches everybody in some way. There are then clever twists and turns which help the reader find out the true motives behind Lyla’s father’s actions.
I found the book and characters really grew on me. This book would give much food for thought for all readers and certainly for a class. The education observations with Great Aunt Ada’s views versus Miss Pinnacle were my favourite parts (I’m firmly in Great Aunt Ada’s camp).