Eleven young girls are students at a private school in Australia. They come from all walks of life but always move as a group during the school days. Their teacher Miss Renshaw walks to the beat of a different drum. She exposes the children to art, music and poetry all the while keeping the reality of the Vietnam War at bay. Miss Renshaw takes the children to the local park to commune with nature and begin writing poetry. On one of their outings they meet the garden's caretaker, Morgan who catches the teacher's eye. One day a field trip is proposed to see some cave paintings down by the sea. The girls are unnerved by the walk and the cave itself.
Miss Renshaw keeps acting strangely and Morgan keeps urging everyone on. When the girls are inside the paintings are invisible and the darkness is impenetrable. The girls panic and leave, waiting outside the cave entrance for Miss Renshaw to appear. But she doesn't. When the students return to school she still isn't there. They remember what Miss Renshaw had written on the board Not Now Not Ever. So they don't say anything and soon a new teacher is assigned to their classroom. What follows is how the girls cope with the disappearance and its implications.
The book feels like it is written from a distance. The characters and events feel far away and impersonal. The girls don't individualize clearly in this reader's mind. Though in the starred review this was considered a "stunning feat of perspective." The ending is a stumper for me. I am unsure what to make of it and would love a conversation with someone to bounce ideas around. I did enjoy the author's style of writing and the way she evokes surroundings without a ton of words. Haunting book.
Six Degrees of Reading: Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff, Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal, The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata.