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Welcome to the First School by the Sea–boarding school in Cornwall

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Welcome to the First School by the Sea

by Jenny Colgan

Whether or not you are a fan of British boarding school books aimed at girls, you will enjoy this series written for adults who loved that genre in their younger days. The series will contain six books as it follows students and teachers through six grades at Downey House in Cornwall beginning with this book, Welcome to the First School by the Sea.

Maggie, a young English teacher from Glasgow, has been teaching in a fairly rough school in London and is ready for a change. She lands a job at the posh boarding school which looks like a beautiful castle. Her long-time, scruffy boyfriend Stan stays behind, and they try to work through the problems of a long distance relationship. The girls and some of the staff are introduced gradually as the plot progresses. Some are likable, some intentionally not. I really enjoyed meeting the various characters from the hardworking, bullied scholarship student Simone whose family hails from Romania to the sophisticated and daring French teacher Claire Crozier.

Maggie wants to do well by her students and is committed to being successful in her new job. She find herself in the middle of situations that develop and even puts herself physically at risk to help a distraught student. The Headteacher, Dr. Veronica Deveral, is a formidable but also amiable institution at the school. There is a potential romantic interest in Maggie’s counterpart at the boys’ school nearby. His dog Stephen Daedalus plays a prominent role in the story.

The normal tension from girls going through puberty, angst over grades, sports and distant family, and unpleasant bullying is ratcheted up when some valuable personal items go missing at the school. The identity of the thief is quite a surprise. Other dramatic twists are included, but not totally resolved leaving the reader anxious to rejoin the staff and students of Downey House after their summer break.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins (William Morrow) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

Notes: 1. #1 in The School by the Sea series.
2. Be sure to read “A Word from Jenny” about the origin of the series. It is very interesting as is the original “Introduction” by the author under her pen name.
3. Some swearing.

Publication: March 29, 2022—HarperCollins (William Morrow)

Memorable Lines:

Once she’d dreamed of filling young hearts and minds with wonderful books and poetry; inspiring them, like Robin Williams, to think beyond their small communities and into the big world. Now she just dreamed of crowd control, and keeping them quiet for ten bloody minutes without someone whacking somebody else or answering their hidden mobiles.

Pat and Liz had been delighted to take the young teacher under their wing and give her the benefit of their wisdom, acquired through about two years in the classroom and twenty in administration, as far as Maggie could work out.

Remembering her family’s love provided a small candle of warmth inside her.


  1. Gretchen says:

    I like the sound of this series! I love the first quote – I imagine that just about sums it up these days, unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nancy says:

    Looks like a neat series. I was a teacher many moons ago and am glad I am not teaching at my older age. When I was young I had the energy that it takes. Looks like I would like to start this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      When I posted my review, I noticed that readers were split in their opinions of the book. They were upset over the “fat shaming” of the scholarship girl. I would point out that her weight was one of the reasons the girl had a low self-image and was bullied, causing her to eat more. Also, this book is for adults; it is not meant as a model for thirteen year olds. Maybe I liked it so much because it did resonate with me as a retired teacher.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Carla says:

    This sounds like an interesting series, Linda. Having been a teacher for over 30 years, I can somewhat identify with that first quote. I hope you enjoy them all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. WendyW says:

    This was such a sweet story! I enjoyed this book as well. I loved those quotes you pulled from the book too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This sounds like a wonderful insight on being a teacher and the series interesting as the students grow and change…love the first memorable line!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      I hope it will be good insight into the impact the teacher is able to make as she gets used to teaching in a posh school where the girls know where their next meal is coming from but have needs none the less.


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