Fleur de Leigh in Exile: A Novel

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9780743226080: Fleur de Leigh in Exile: A Novel
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Diane Leslie's first novel, Fleur de Leigh's Life of Crime, chronicled young Fleur Leigh's glamorous misadventures in 1950s Hollywood. "Très charmant indeed," Entertainment Weekly praised this Library Journal and Los Angeles Times Best Book of 1999. Fleur de Leigh in Exile finds fifteen-year-old Fleur in diminished circumstances. She transferred mid-semester to Tucson's Rancho Cambridge West -- the cheapest boarding school in all the United States -- where frail students convalesce in the arid clime and dine on the mess hall's "adobe melt." "Think of yourself as a conquistador," her B-movie actress mother urges, but Fleur's eyes are widened to the evils of prejudice and the burdens of combating it. After a night of dorm-room high jinks, Fleur and friends band together as the "Four-Letter Four." Sentenced to a civic-minded punishment deep in the desert, the "doomed do-gooders" encounter a grave situation far removed from Fleur's upper-class upbringing. Serious issues abound, but in Diane Leslie's world even the most painful moments are tinged with comedy. Diane Leslie's writing is "enchanting, believable, and wickedly funny" (Denver Post). Witty and fresh, Fleur de Leigh in Exile pits Heartland against Hollywood in a tale whose courageous heroine is as endearing in exile as ever before.

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Review:

There are books that never seem to belong entirely to children, but they're not strictly grown-up novels either. Philip Pullman's fantasy novels fall into this category, as does Francesca Lia Block's nutty Weetzie Bat series. For those who love books that can be witty, knowing, and innocent all at once, Diane Leslie has created young Fleur de Leigh. We met her first in Fleur de Leigh's Life of Crime, and now she's gotten herself a sequel, Fleur de Leigh in Exile. A 1950s Hollywood brat with an over-the-top radio star mom, Fleur de Leigh is a narrator of deadpan formality and quicksilver goofiness. In Fleur de Leigh in Exile, she's landed in, really, the ultimate exile: Tuscon. No sooner does she arrive at the Rancho Cambridge West boarding school school than she encounters her former best friend, Daisy, who now goes by Twyla. In proper Boarding School Fiction fashion, the novel is deeply episodic, with pranks galore, adventure-filled forays into the real world, and of course some lessons learned. All through this slightly shambling and messy plot, Fleur de Leigh observes the world around her with her customary aplomb. Of one of her teachers: "His chin seemed to form its own hairless goatee." These novels are all about an eccentric, smart young girl's voice, and Leslie maintains it seamlessly. --Claire Dederer

About the Author:

Diane Leslie is the author of Fleur de Leigh's Life of Crime, a Los Angeles Times bestseller for twenty-eight weeks. She lives in Los Angeles, where for many years she has hosted author readings and led book groups at Dutton's Brentwood Bookstore.

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