The Declaration, Chapter 21

We return to Grange Hall, where Sheila is having a rough time of it. Her only comforts are the pair of silk knickers she stole, and Anna’s diary, hidden in Female Bathroom 2.

Dislikeable Charlie also makes a return, and he’s determined to taunt Sheila and get her in trouble. And in fact, an unintended consequence of his actions is that one of the teachers discovers the stolen knickers, and Sheila gets sent to Evil Mrs Pinsent.

“’Your parents were so relieved, you know, when the Catchers finally found you,’ Mrs Pinsent continued.”

Mrs Pinsent really knows how to twist the knife. She pushes Sheila’s buttons by pretending that her parents wanted her to end up in Grange Hall. I’m not sure if Mrs Pinsent had any idea that Sheila might know something about Anna’s escape, but at any rate, Sheila decides to talk. Sheila draws attention away from her own misdeeds by telling Mrs Pinsent about Anna’s diary. Oh no! The tension is at breaking point!

But we’re going to drag the diary plot out for at least one more chapter, because now we switch back to Anna, who has just met her parents.

He was handsome and had dark hair…”

…he smelt like the Outside, so fresh and beautiful.”

There’s all this descriptive prose about how amazing Anna’s dad is, and how great it is for her to even think the words “my father”, whilst in comparison her mother is just a functional unit. Her appearance hasn’t even been described at all, she’s just “a woman”. Talk about misogyny.

Anyway, it also turns out that Anna has a baby brother, and unlike all those grimy and horrible babies in Grange Hall, he’s the good kind of baby.

It scared her, because she knew she didn’t deserve it.”

Anna isn’t really a nice person, but I still feel sorry for her – mostly she’s the product of her environment. And I wish I could be sure that this book would tackle Anna’s self-esteem issues and help her grow into a confident and independent young woman. But I know that what will happen instead is that she’ll just become entirely dependent on Peter. And that saddens me.

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