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August 2018

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Worth Reprinting: Jam Tomorrow



I’ve been rereading Jam Tomorrow by Monica Redlich. It was first published in 1937 and the copy shown here is the Puffin edition of 1947; it’s ‘Warmly recommended for girls of 10-14.’ The central character is sixteen year old Jean Bascombe and the story opens with her return train journey from school, spotting all the familiar landmarks, welcomed by her brothers, delighted to be home for the summer holidays. Home is an old rectory in a village being encroached on by road, rail and town. Jean takes home for granted but it’s far from normal. Her widowed father is one of those (to my mind) supremely selfish, vague clergymen who spend most of their time in the study and seem happy as long as meals are on the table at regular hours. The live-in help, instead of being a hardworking, motherly type, is lazy and rude. The children are on bad terms with most of their neighbours, who consider them wild and mad. Money is an ever present worry, in spite of the maid, gardener, car and school fees, as the modern reader will note rather tartly.

In spite of their problems the Bascombes are happy and have a lot of fun with books, music, tennis and outdoor pursuits with the neighbouring (and very rich) Hoods. Roland, the elder brother, is very musical and hoped to go to Cambridge; lack of money means he has to go to a commercial college instead, which makes him bitter. Younger David is a rather precocious but still engaging ten year old. Within a week of Jean’s return everything has changed. Her father drops the bombshell that two previously unknown Canadian girl cousins, now orphans, have been invited to live with them. The children not surprisingly hate the thought of this but Rory and Anne turn out to be delightful. Then the maid storms out after a row and Jean decides not to tell her father. The girls cope and then propose that Jean should leave school for good and the family do without help but manage everything themselves.

At first, of course, there are many trials (‘it’s all meals!’) but they come to enjoy it and the descriptions are fun. Then they have to cope with floods which fill the ground floor, followed by the illness of just about everybody. This ill wind brings about a surprise discovery which improves their fortunes. There’s also a romance. Jean is an interesting character. Neither clever nor beautiful, socially nervous (before a dance at the Hoods' she wishes she were going to bed at half past nine with a book), she is lively, fun and not prone to introspection.

The only other book by Monica Redlich I’ve ever seen is the non fiction Danish Delight. Jam Tomorrow is hard to find and I think it deserves a reprint. The Children Who Lived in a Barn by Eleanor Graham (another housekeeping book) has been reprinted by Persephone Books and I like the Redlich better.

Comments

Perhaps you should suggest it - I think Persephone often take their books from readers' suggestions. Maybe it's time to start a petition. It sounds exactly like my sort of book.
Good plan! I haven't had the book that long, never read it as a child, and I love it.
I love Jam Tomorrow but think it ios more a Fidra than persephone. Five Frathings Redlich's other family story is also lovely.
Five Farthings! Oh goody, another one I haven't read.
Fidra tend to go for more outdoorsy books, don't you think? It would be great, though.
Sounds lovely can't wait to borrow it! Was so inspired last visit by your beautiful coloured glass collection, it was One Goes Mad In Charity Shop today!
Any time! Now I'm intrigued to know what the shops have yielded up to you today.
Oh, you star. I have been dying to get this for Dr Bear but couldn't remember who wrote it. Many thanks.
You kind friend: she'll love it!

(Anonymous)

I just wrote a post about her book "The Nice Girl's Guide to Good Behavior"~~I am going to try to find a copy of Jam Tomorrow for my daughter!

Michelle @ The Red Velvet Shoe
http://theredvelvetshoe.typepad.com/talesfromavintagewardrobe/
Thank you! I didn't know that much about Monica Redlich and had no idea that book was available. Good luck with finding Jam Tomorrow.

(Anonymous)

Jam Tomorrow

My mother had it as a child and loved it; it was about the only book she kept. I loved it too (yes, it even appealed to boys) and it brought me to a lifelong love of quoting Alice!

Can anybody help with the hairbrush quotation? (Something like "The comb got lost in my hair, and I lost the hairbrush weeks ago")

(Anonymous)

Jam Today

Beautifully reviewed.
I loved the book, in Australia, discovering an old copy (there are no others) around 2000.
The Lewis Carroll allusion in the title is a hint of the literate sense of humour.
Dodie Smith's "I Capture the Castle" is a good comparison, or Jean Webster's "Daddy Long-Legs", or Pauline Clarke's "Keep the Pot Boiling", with another Lewis Carroll, and vicar connection -- but I don't suppose many people know Clarke's autobiographical children's novel, beautifully illustrated by Clarke's friend, Cecil Leslie.
John Gough -- Deakin University (retired) -- jagough49@gmail.com

Re: Jam Today

Thank you.

I don't know the Pauline Clarke book and will look out for it.

Monica Redlich's Five Farthings, about a family making a new life in London, was reprinted by Margin Notes Books in 2011. More housekeeping and making do and lots of interesting detail about London.