Miss Blaine’s Prefect and The Golden Samovar by @OlgaWojtas #review @sarabandbooks

Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar by [Wojtas, Olga]

I have absolutely loved and chuckled my way through Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar over the past few days. Librarian Shona McMonagle received the finest education in the world at the Marcia Blaine school and therefore is one of the creme de la creme. If you are thinking that the school name sounds familiar, you are correct. It is the name of the school in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Rather than being proud of this though, Shona hates the book! She is on a personal mission to make sure nobody reads it as she thinks it suggests only the girls in Miss Brodie’s class are the creme de la creme, when everyone knows that the best education in the world was at her school and everyone attending the school had the good fortune to receive it. Now Miss Blaine has developed a time travel system to make sure people from all periods of time can benefit from her girls’ efforts to make the world a better place.

Shona is delighted and proud, though probably not surprised, to be chosen by Miss Blaine herself to go on a mysterious mission to 19th Century Russia. She has a very high opinion of her abilities and her intellect, which in anyone else would seem annoying but in Shona is both amusing and endearing. Though she wouldn’t thank me for saying so, I think there is more than a little of Miss Jean Brodie in Shona herself. There were so many funny moments throughout the book as Shona tried to discern her mission. When she meets young heiress Lidia, she is convinced that her mission must be to match her up with the beautiful Sasha, the countess’s protege, and make sure that she does not marry the much older (and shorter) General. But has she perhaps misunderstood her mission? 

Among the many things which made me laugh were the misunderstandings as Shona’s modern day speech, impeccably translated into Russian, were nonetheless misunderstood by the people around her.  ‘[Shona says] “Sausages is the boys.” He  {Old Vatrushkin] flinched, “In Scotland, you make sausages out of people?” I reflected that in some parts of Glasgow they probably did, but there was no need to tell him that.” ‘  Her pride in being a citizen of Scotland, indeed of Morningside in Edinburgh, was amusing as were the jibes at Glasgow, with whom Edinburgh has a friendly – or perhaps not so friendly – rivalry! 

This book is very witty and clever, as well as fast paced and quirky. It is packed with real laugh out loud moments, some of which I’m sure gained me strange looks as I was reading on the bus. Among a marvellous cast of unforgettable characters such as Old Vatrushkin, Nanny and of course Lidia, Shona is a heroine I loved and one I really hope we see again.

My copy of this book was purchased from Amazon. Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar is published by Contraband Books and is available now in paperback and e-book formats. At the time of writing the Kindle version is only £1.79. You can order a copy here: Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar

From the back of the book

Fifty-something Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name.

Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is thrilled when selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for a one-week mission in 19th-century Russia: to pair up the beautiful, shy, orphaned heiress Lidia Ivanovna with Sasha, a gorgeous young man of unexplained origins.

But, despite all her accomplishments and good intentions, Shona might well have got the wrong end of the stick about her mission. As the body count rises, will she discover in time just who the real villain is?

Olga Wojtas

Olga Wojtas was born and raised in Edinburgh, and attended the school that inspired Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She became a journalist, writing short stories on the side, and her life changed when she won a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust.

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