Sunday, 18 July 2010

How to search for new books

Sunday afternoon: time to write up and conclude.

I am experimenting at the moment as I seem to have run out of of girl's own books by favourite authors. They all stop writing eventually. Just temporarily, I don't want to reread, but expand my collection (horizons?) a little. So, I'd noticed that girl's own books tend to be published by the same publishers and illustrated by the same artists. A little lateral thinking (and quite a bit of 'keyword' searching on ABE) yields treasures to borrow from the reading room or purchase from a friendly book dealer.

My recommendation thus far is to try typing Ruth Gervis or the favoured illustrator of your choice in the ABE keywords search field and see what you can see. I then removed 'Enid Blyton' and got on very well. You can do much the same in the British Library's catalogue, though I like the chance to see stock pictures on ABE.

We Never Thought of That! was purchased solely for the promise of illustrations of 1950s France by Ruth Gervis. That's all I can really recommend the book for, though I'm keeping it because it does look beautiful on the shelf. I don't know anything about P.M. Lovell (a one book type according to the BL Catalogue, though it's possible that she is also the Phyllis Lovell who wrote domestic science manuals), but it seems to me that the story could and should have had a better treatment. Imagine, you send your children to France for the summer in the hope that youngest daughter will learn enough French to impress in her boarding school entrance examination that autumn. As you've begun on the cross-Channel ferry without parents, you then introduce two more worldly teenagers to widen the horizons of your sheltered characters. In no time at all, your children have decided to extend their stay abroad, rent a house and reopen a conveniently abandoned cafe achieving some local success by serving omlettes, scones, English tea and girls that sing folk songs. It's rather a pity that Gwendoline Courtney (see GGBP) or Noel Streatfeild didn't actually write this; Lovell's cast just don't come to life in the same way that a Courtney family does in The Girls of Friars Rise or even a Streatfeild family does, say in Wintle's Wonders or The Painted Garden. That said, I didn't need to endure (or turn pages rapidly) when a small girl (a very Courtney type) is either saying/doing something shocking (in ankle socks, not stockings, sorry), downright irritating or leaving muddy prints all over the narrative. There's a superior (though show-off handsome) type of young man that Brent-Dyer is so fond of and plenty of nice domesticated girls being competent, but it just doesn't rise terribly high or high enough to complement Gervis's wonderful illustrations. It was an enjoyable muddle and a good light read of an innocent summer holiday where you don't learn much French.


  1. I do think Wintle's Wonders is the perfect book about pushy stagestruck mothers! Love Noel Streatfeild!

  2. Thank you! Sorry this reply is so late.