H. S. Cross explores “a school as nuanced and secretive as J. K. Rowling’s Hogwarts” (The Rumpus) in Grievous, a return to the world of her acclaimed coming-of-age novel Wilberforce. The book is set in 1931 at St. Stephen’s Academy, a world unto itself, populated by boys reveling in life’s first big mistakes and men still learning how to live with the consequences of their own. They live a cloistered life, exotic to modern eyes, founded upon privilege, ruled by byzantine and often unspoken laws. Yet within those austere corridors can be found windows of enchantment, unruly love, and a wild sort of freedom, all vanished, it seems, from our world. Told from a variety of viewpoints—including that of unhappy Housemaster John Grieves—Grievous takes us deep inside the crucible of St. Stephen’s.
It's 1926 at St. Stephen's Academy, and the students are on the verge of revolt. While the younger boys plot an insurrection, the older ones are preoccupied with sneaking out-of-bounds, thrashing each other, tearing each other's clothes off-or some combination of the three. Morgan Wilberforce, for one, can't take it any longer.