feather_ghyll: Illustration of the Chalet against a white background with blue border (Chalet School)
Here are some links I have meant to post for a good long while:

The Chalet School at War review by Did You Ever Stop to Think

From the same blog, a thought-provoking analysis of the first page of ‘The School at the Chalet’.

Also, a review of Head Girl of the Chalet School

And her Chalet School tag

[dreamwidth.org profile] el_staplador sings the praises of 'Ballet Shoes’ (from a feminist standpoint) here.

I couldn't see who whad written about coming to Anne Shirley for the first time as an adult at Vulpes Libris.

A review of Miss Buncle’s Book by Carrie S, which I found charming. My first D.E. Stevenson book was 'Amberwell', which I probably was too young for. I liked the idea of children growing up in a stately family home, but was quite upset that their lives turned out to be sad and full of strife. I find Stevenson variable in quality, but 'Miss Buncle’s Book' is one of my favourite books of hers,

The author of the recently reviewed Tam Lin can be found on Livejournal/Dreamwidth [livejournal.com profile] pameladean/[dreamwidth.org profile] pameladean.

Finally, and this is relatively breaking news, the BBC is adapting 'Little Women'.
feather_ghyll: Book shop store front, text reading 'wear the old coat, buy the new book.' (Book not coat)
I got a chance to go into a proper, if tiny, second-hand bookshop over the weekend. I don’t recall whether I’ve written about thi particular shop before here or not. It’s the sort of shop where you have to be willing to devote time to searching and even literally kneel down if you’re a children’s book collector or, er, a bookish child. I had a bit of a misanthropic spell there. I’d like to say it was idiot holiday-makers who clearly only went into bookshops when they came across them unexpectedly out of the daily run, but it was people in general. It was mainly the lack of space, books are essentially in piles, three deep in one small room. I scattered some piles about three times and got stepped upon.

Still, I got all of the books that I’m going to discuss next (and more) there:

The Adventurous Rebel: Eileeen Graham. C&J Temple, 1949?.

This is a historical adventure for older girls. I am getting tired of the way early twentieth century children’s writers automatically side with the Royalists (oh those gay cavaliers!) all the time. Read more... )

I then read (an overpriced copy given the edition and its condition)

Still Glides the Stream: DE Stevenson. Fontana, 1965.Will Hastie returns to the Borders having stayed in the army after the second world war, but, now in his mid thirties, he means to settle and make a go of things at home. He grew up with the family next door, almost counting Rae his brother and Patty his sister, but Rae died in the war, leaving his parents broken and hopeless. Patty now has a fiancée, who should help her, but Will - unaccountably doesn’t like him. A telling picnic gone wrong shows Patty that she doesn’t like him that much either, but Will has gone off to investigate a mystery thrown up by an enigmatic message from Rae that arrived after news of his death. In the south of France, where Rae died, Will discovers that his friend found and married a beautiful Frenchwoman, and she bore him a son, Tom, in many ways Rae to the life again. Will eventually brings them home, where Tom heals his grandparents and Patty feels she should be happier than she is. It's all very gentle, and I liked it more than I did the last Stevenson that I read, although I was in some anxiety that Stevenson would pair off the ‘right' couple (to my mind), something she doesn’t always do.

This book loosely follows up Amberwell and Summerhills with a visit there that reminded me of people visiting Rosamund’s castle in the Abbey series. I read Amberwell when I was too young to grasp it, really. I wanted it to be more of a book about children and their big house than it was, and then it was a long time after when I read Summerhills.

The Treasure of the Trevellyans: Doris Pocock The Commonwealth Library 2 Ward lock 1959

is a perfectly fine family adventure book about the large brood of an impecunious if well regarded artist who inherits the family seat. Given what the weather is like these days, I like that Pocock does not give them a wonderful Cornish summer. It rains. A lot. Read more... )
feather_ghyll: Girl reading a book that is resting on her knees (Default)
Over the summer, I've found myself reading a lot of books that are concerned with the employment of women, in the loosest sense of the phrase, maybe 'occupation' is closer to it, and some of them were girls rather than women...

Sue Barton - Staff Nurse: Helen Dore Boylston
Requiem for a Wren: Neville Shute
Miss Buncle Married: D. E. Stevenson
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Winifred Watson
The Third Miss Symons: F.M. Mayor
North for Treasure: Dorothy Carter
Read more... )
feather_ghyll: Book shop store front, text reading 'wear the old coat, buy the new book.' (Book not coat)
The weekend before last weekend - sorry, this post has been one of the things I've never got round to sitting down and finishing until now - I saw a copy of 'Amberwell' by D. E. Stevenson with a dust jacket. As it was in a second-hand book shop, I didn't even pick it up, let alone look at the price. I have a hardback of my own, one that I bought thinking it was a children's book, perhaps if it had had a dust jacket I'd have been disabused of the notion. At first, the story is about a generation of children living in a house named Amberwell, but it follows them as they grow up and lead lives that would have been difficult even without the outbreak of the second world war, and, in fact, adult problems and mistakes blight their childhoods anyhow. So it's not a children's book at all. I was probably too young for it when I read it, because the bitterness and disappointments that the characters faced, and, maybe, the lack of a clear protagonist threw me. I read the sequel several years later and that may have been too long a wait, I'd reread 'Amberwell' at least once since, and 'Summerhills' felt like a different novel, and it lacked the focus on a place, although it did resolve some of the unfinished strands of the first book.

My favourite Stevenson book - so far, I've only read a handful of hers, and annoyingly haven't seen any new-to-me copies lately - is 'Miss Buncle's Book', which doesn't have that twist of, well, bitterness that's in 'Amberwell'. It's about a spinster and the village that she lives in. Our heroine Barbara is neither young nor middle aged, IIRC, and loves her village, but has something in her that can make her see it with a slightly removed perspective. And so she starts to write a book about it, a shadow narrative about the village's life, that imputes motives and expands mysteries, not nastily, because Barbara Buncle is a darling. But the story grows in the telling, as stories do, and contains a fantastical element - and has to be published. Once it is, Barbara in a tricky position. She's changed in the writing of her book and the book has changed her village.

It's altogether charming, I loved the book-within-a-book aspect and insight into the writing process. I've read one of the sequels, which isn't so much lesser as feeling quite different. Sequels that revisit characters' lives are a trait of Stevenson's (who, yes, is related to Robert Louis), so although not all the books are linked in an Oxenham or Brent-Dyer way, you do sometimes get the opportunity to find out what happened next. It's apt that not all the books are linked, some of them are quite different - you never know how light the mood will be with her, but their setting is always important.

Last weekend too, I reread 'Ballet Shoes', which was fun (particularly Posy's monomania for ballet). I was going to review it, but my notes were a little harsh. The thing is, I can't remember when I did read 'Ballet Shoes' first, but I suspect I was a teenager and not a child, so I didn't grow up with it, and the ballet dancer I took to heart young was Veronica Weston, and the young performers, the enterprising Blue Door theatre group. As such, even the first time I read Ballet Shoes, I was probably distanced, which is partly why I didn't empathise with any of the Fossils exactly, and found them a little quaint because there's this mix of the ordinary and the extraordinary. Usually, difference of period or location doesn't phase me but this time it did, especially their genteel poverty (oh, Gum, you selfish man!). Also, I'd have liked more detail on the ballet school's life, although I know that the story's about the Fossils, their family circle and their lodgers. I've also got 'The Painted Garden' (there's a mention of 'The Secret Garden' in 'Ballet Shoes', was it Streatfeild's favourite book?) to read, now there's a book I ought to reread, ('The Secret Garden') though I don't know if I have a copy.

What I suppose I'm getting at is how much subjective experience informs whether I take a book to heart. It all depends so much on what books are available in your childhood, in libraries or in shops, and whether your reading age is a bit beyond your actual or emotional age (or if you're reading something pitched younger, whereas if I had read 'Ballet Shoes' when I was closer to the girls' age, it might be one of my favourite books). Of course, there are other reasons to love books, and this blog is all about books that transcend reading age.

A D.E Stevenson page and another.

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