Saturday, 6 January 2018

Things A Bright Girl Can Do // an unputdownable story about young suffragettes

I was quite nervous to pick up Things A Bright Girl Can Do. It was my book club's very first book, and I knew my friends had already read and loved it. I knew next to nothing about it, and as the first book I picked up this year I felt like there was even more pressure to like it. But my fear was all for nothing, because I didn't want to put this book down.

Set in 1914 and spanning 4 years, Things A Bright Girl Can Do centres on three young suffragettes. Evelyn wants to go to university, Nell wants her family to earn enough to live, and May wants a more peaceful world. But most of all, the girls all want votes for women.

What could have been a very cheesy book ended up being a story of hardship and privilege, and how the path to equality is a rocky one. It didn't glamorise the violence associated with the suffragettes, but acknowledged it and showed different perspectives. There are characters who are pacifists and characters who believe that violence works and characters who are in between. The girls were lovable and incredibly real characters who drove the story on and kept me reading late into the night.

The story begins very light and hopeful, but when the First World War is declared, things take a turn for the bleak. The tone changes slowly as the story progresses, and not everything gets a perfect happy ending.

There are so many perspectives on how war impacts people's lives, particularly those who stay behind. There were points of view that I had never considered before, like how so many people were happy when war was declared, and how so many people longed to be in the fight. I knew that men who were too young lied about their age to get into the army, but I never fully understood the pressures that were put on them by others and by themselves. Some even longed to die, just so they would die for their country rather than by old age, which was somehow considered more dignified. The pressures put on women were just as great, and when the men of the family died, it was women who had to work more to keep their families alive. I genuinely felt like I learnt so much from this book and I loved how much the book engaged with the history of World War I and the real events happening around it.

The only thing that fell short for me was the ending. I liked that it wasn't a perfect resolution, because it reflects how perfect equality still hasn't been achieved. I also liked that the girls didn't have super meaningful lives and didn't end up changing the world. But the story felt incomplete, like it didn't quite know how to end.

Overall, Things A Bright Girl Can Do is a book that is difficult not to love. The writing style is easy to get addicted to and I was so hooked that I finished it in three sittings. If you're looking for a new and diverse historical YA, this one is for you.


YA Historical Fiction 


 Two lesbian characters

Violence, starvation, war


  1. I had never heard of this book, and I'm really intrigued. I've never read a novel about suffragettes, and I think it would be an interesting period of history. I'm going to have to check it out.

    1. It's an interesting read, for sure! I haven't read books around this specific era of history either (I'm not a big historical fiction reader) and I might not have read Things A Bright Girl Can Do had my friends not picked it for our book club. But I feel like I've learnt a lot from it without it feeling like an 'educational book' whilst I was reading it. If you do check it out I hope you like it, Haley :)