Michael Sauter
July 25, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Secret Life of a Schoolgirl

Current Status
In Season
Rosemary Kingsland

We gave it a B+

Kingsland’s memoir has the whiff of the lurid about it: As a girl of 14, she had a head-turning affair with a 29-year-old Richard Burton, played out in hideaways and one cozy London flat. But it’s far from the whole story of this British officer’s daughter, who was born privileged in late-Raj India, fled the country ahead of a mounting wave of violence, then grew up too quickly, on the edge of poverty, in postwar England. Novelist Kingsland (After the Ball Was Over) evokes those years in elegant prose that lilts between gauzy half memories and precisely etched minutiae. But that’s just the charming framework. The big picture — her family’s complex dynamics, her acute adolescent growing pains, her first night with Burton — is rendered in bold, indelible strokes.

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