Having had the urge to read High Rising again I moved on to my other favourite, Summer Half. Then I decided to follow Lydia’s career so I read several more up to County Chronicle. This included reading Private Enterprise yet again. In spite of the many unpleasant opinions expressed in it, it is still one of my favourites.
I read three books by Jean Ure, each very different. Family Fan Club is subtitled 'A Little Women for Today', which it certainly is not. Nice idea, though. Four girls, all different, black father, white mother, estranged, happy ending. Cool Simon is about a deaf boy coping with a new school. Bad Alice is a better book than either of these, but very dark. Alice is abused by her adoptive father, who runs a Christian care home. This is cleverly done but I find it slightly worrying that the same idea appears in Jacqueline Wilson’s Diamond Girls, in which the apparently good but abusive mother is a Christian. Have these authors got it in for Christianity?
After Intent Upon Reading, which I wrote about before, I reread Francis Spufford’s brainy book The Child that Books Made and enjoyed it all over again.
The GO type books I read were first A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. A first time read for me and I enjoyed it in spite of not liking fantasy. Strangers at Golden Path by Mary Gervaise: not a patch on her pre-war books. Penny Puzzled by A Stephen Tring: entertaining as usual. The Secret of Storm Abbey by Ann Castleton (1947) is set in a convent school but there is not much school; far more adventure amongst the caves and rocks. The plot is like that of any school story which has a Ruritanian princess: no sooner does she arrive than her father’s enemies are out to get her. But Dilkusha, known also as Pauline, is Indian and this gives an extra twist to the story because of the racism she experiences from one girl. Naturally it is this girl, Joan, who eventually rescues her and becomes her friend. Breathless tale but has its interest. The convent background is seldom used in schoolgirl fiction and the girls are all happy at the school, in spite of the strictness of the Sisters and Reverend Mother. In The Stanford Twins at St Faith’s by Kathleen M Willcox (1934) twins from Canada are offered education in England by a benefactor. They settle down amazingly quickly and become the life and soul, winning the county swimming shield for the school and rescuing a kidnapped toddler from gipsies. Their father had emigrated in disgrace and it turns out that baby Peter is the son of the man he wronged, who then forgives him. The benefactor is pleased with the girls and makes them his heirs, a fact which their father rather surprisingly makes known to them. Rather episodic in the Angela Brazil style but entertaining and humorous.
Finally, Orders to Poach by Olivia Fitz Roy (1942). A lovely fat, new edition from Fidra Books of a title one couldn’t afford to buy just to read and see what all the fuss is about. The Stewart family has let its big house to a man who hates cruelty to animals, so refuses to allow any shooting or fishing on the land. Absent father instructs his children to poach, in order to keep the game down and preserve the land. So begins a cat and mouse game with the tenant’s ghillies. The book is far too long and meandering and quite badly written in places; it is so plotless that every time I picked it up again I had forgotten what had previously happened. There are irritations such as, ‘The Stewarts were one of the poorest families in Scotland.’ Oh, please! One of the poorest families in Scotland which sends its sons to Eton and gives its daughters a London season. The hunting is not for the fainthearted: most of the fishing takes place in places with unpronounceable names and if you don’t know what gralloching is, I’m not going to tell you. The pleasure in reading it comes from the descriptions of the landscape and the wildlife that is part of it. As a shapeless description of a summer in the Highlands, midges and all, it is quite relaxing.