Sunday, 24 March 2013

Rumer Godden

The Telegraph's Book section can yield some gems on occasion. Rumer Godden is one of those wonderful crossover authors who can take you from the children's library to the larger adult section of the library. Before mine was refurbished and tall shelves of books were replaced by turning freestanding shelves stuffed with DVDs, there were bookshelves that reached from floor to ceiling. I wasn't, at first, sure where to start in the adults library. Library staff were discreet and busy with the queues at the desk, so I had time and freedom to roam. Rumer Godden was an author I already knew well. My favourite among her doll stories was Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, so finding her again in the adults section introduced me to Pippa (Pippa Passes) and kind nuns in In this House of Brede to say nothing of The Peacock Spring.

I'm pleased that so many authors of my childhood are being introduced to new readers with the new reprints. While it's lovely for books to be passed down the generations, the reality is that few books last being read to bits by enthusiastic child readers. Older Puffins, in particular, are rather vulnerable once the glue dries and the pages become brittle. The Rumer Godden Literary Trust was set up after Rumer's death and has given us beautiful new editions of her doll stories. Now that Virago is reprinting Kingfishers Catch Fire you'll see a different side to her storytelling and a more reflective author trying so hard to understand Indian culture. Mutual misunderstandings throughout and wonderfully told.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Career books and updates

Hello all. With apologies for not replying to posts on the blog as Firefox is determined to prevent me from achieving basic courtesies with all sorts of 'protections'. I'll try and get round it again in a little while. It seems that you'd like me to add a vintage career book to my list. Well, I haven't read many and I'll try this new tangent for research. I did enjoy Jane: Young Author and a couple of naval stories featuring capable girls whose names I can't remember.

What sort of career novel would I like? I'll avoid ballet and theatre books as those are very well represented by reprint publishers already. So, something 'different', 'entertaining' and 'rare'. If it's not asking too much, I also need charm and a good story. As for careers, floristry seems popular - I was thinking that or dressmaking. I think anything with cooking is likely to be too similar to Candy Nevill and anything with publishing might be too close to Five Farthings, so I'll concentrate on floristry and gardening in the first round of reading. That may leave me with Land Girls and allow me to keep history in mind. The other area that I might need to consider is travel. There was a Chalet School girl who wanted to be a lady courier, so I expect I can find a good tale of a tour guide or travel agent posted abroad.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A quick Mothering Sunday post

I think I must be one of the last remaining daughters to give the semi-traditional and simple daffodils to my mother today. Local supermarkets and florists have some simple daffodils hidden away behind glitter-dipped chrysanthemums and parrot tulips with eucalyptus and the like. I searched for and found a dwarf variety potted up at the florist and they promise double flowers, though tightly-closed buds are all that can be seen now without even a hint of yellow. I expect they'll be planted out in her garden at some stage too. I don't recall much in the way of Mothering Sunday in Girl's Own (vintage) fiction, though Noel Streatfeild does cover the giving of daffodils and extended family visit in Mothering Sunday when all the mother really wants is a day of peace and quiet. Judging by some of the press attention, it seems that many mothers don't want a fuss made for them, but would like a day for themselves.

Flowers, though, well they are covered in vintage fiction. Lucy Maud Montgomery's heroines gather bouquets of lilies, Elsie Jeanette Oxenham's heroines bestow bunches of flowers on their new friends with varying degrees of patronage and some heroines even grow flowers in their own small gardens. I was always disappointed that P.M. Warner in A Friend for Frances never actually showed us the long-promised bulb fields in Holland as I wanted to see how she'd show the excess of colour and texture. In a more moral vein, the good Chalet girls were actively discouraged from picking wild flowers. I suppose they would have wilted on the return ramble, but it would have been interesting if they'd had a jam jar full of flowers in their flower-curtained cubicles. Elinor M. Brent-Dyer must have preferred floral fabric to the real thing. 

I don't recall a career book for girls that dealt with floristry - is there one? Google isn't being of much help this afternoon.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Sally and Her Kitchens - May Worthington

Today's post is a short follow-up from Candy Nevill where the book Sally and Her Kitchens is mentioned in passing. Candy and Bets give this book to another girl a birthday present which Bets immediately plots to borrow back from her friend. I sympathised with her plotting as I could never find enough books as a child. The mother produces it from a magical cupboard containing spare presents and the like. I always wish I had one of those when I realise that I may not have been quite a good enough friend to post a birthday card in time. Now, to Sally. This wasn't an easy book to track down. Yes, it might be in a few research libraries, but finding a copy of your own seems rather too much to hope for. I don't think there's a copy for sale at the moment so anyone wanting to sell may do very well. This scarcity surprised me as it went through several printings between 1939 and (at least) 1941 and seems to be well-known by American readers. It's a Dodd Mead Career Book for girls and written in a similar way to the careers books from the 1950s that Bodley Head printed. Sally and Her Kitchens was written by May Worthington and illustrated in very effective line drawings by Marguerite Bryan. Even finding the odd image hasn't been easy and, since I read it in a research library, I can't provide any. Well, not and keep the library card.

So, this is a 256 page novel about home economics set in Hawaii and California and the pace is brisk. Sally Lewis, a girl for whom the term 'pep' applies, takes a job as cook to a boarding school in 1939 Hawaii before moving on to run a tea room in California. She's lucky enough to supervise a team of Chinese cooks and have plenty of time off to find nice young men, tour the pineapple fields and do a fair bit of shopping and recipe gathering. I enjoyed this novel for the vintage recipes and mentions of 'new' foods. We're all so used to year-round tropical fruits, that it's a shock to read about how to prepare alligator pears (avocados) or papaya. It's also nice to read about the menu planning for large parties and teaching pupils how to welcome and serve guests with macarons, lemon bars and date bars. All classics of American entertaining and Martha Stewart's website can provide recipes and pictures.