Madam was released in February 2021 as Phoebe Wynne’s first novel. I picked up this book because it seemed like it had everything I loved: the Scottish highlands, a female protagonist, “dark academia,” and an intriguing mystery. And I was right, it truly did have everything I loved (*SPOILER* Except murder, but you know, you can’t have it all). I flew through the pages of this one.
Set on the rocky coastline of the Scottish highlands, Phoebe Wynne’s boarding school for girls has a gothic and isolated aura to it. The way Wynne slowly provides insight into the disappearance of the previous Head of Classics at the school and the almost creepy personality of the schools girls had me guessing (wrong) the entire read. Rose, the books’ protagonist, and new Head of Classics was likable and I enjoyed seeing the boarding school through her eyes. Rose’s students provided an important aspect of the book, giving slow hints at the what was really going on at the school in unsettling ways and I’m surprised to say I didn’t guess the dark truth at any point during my read.
The only thing I disliked about the novel was how Rose wasn’t quite reacting how I would have imagined in the situations she was in; yes, she tried to rail against the patriarchy and educated her students about feminist ideology through Classics, but she didn’t do much to save herself.
The ending of Madam was a shock that I didn’t see coming but was the perfect ending in my opinion.
This gothic mystery is perfect for fans of The Historian and The Secret History. I highly recommend giving Madam a read.