Confinement by Katharine McMahon
I love the cover of this book. So did a complete stranger (a middle-aged man) who commented on it while I was sitting waiting for a train at Southampton station.
It's one of my favourite type of novels - set in two time periods. In Victorian England, Bess Hardomon is teaching at the Priors Heath school for the daughters of clergy. She's determined to improve the welfare and fortunes of the girls. In the 1960s/70s, Sarah Beckett is a student at Priors Heath girls' school. She's studious and hard-working, but befriends wild child Imogen. In the 1990s Sarah returns to Priors Heath, now a comprehensive, as a teacher. Imogen is the new head teacher, trying to update the school in her own way. Throughout, the theme of women being confined by their gender and duties is explored.
The school itself becomes a character in this novel - I love the way it develops over the years, changing with the times but not losing its identity. Thoroughly enjoyable novel - the third of McMahon's I've read and it won't be the last.