New Yorker Cuddihy was orphaned by the time she turned ten, in 1962, responsibility for her and her four siblings falling to their uncle, who surprised them all by flying them to Britain, where they were split between two schools.

That's a jarring experience for a young girl, even more so that the school she was sent to was AS Neill's radically experimental Summerhill, where pupils and teachers had an equal say in its running. Summerhill's an interesting place, and here we can see it from the perspective of a former pupil, and not through rose-tinted glasses either. However viable the idea, Neill's haphazard approach was not the best way to do it. Modern readers will be amazed by the lack of safeguards to ensure the physical and psychological welfare of the children. All Cuddihy knew was that they were stranded in Britain until custody was resolved, and a sense of stoical bewilderment runs through this restrained but fascinating account.

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