Several weeks ago I wrote in general about the horrors of the Collins abridgments—here with A14_The Abbey Girls Again, we come face to face with them! The abridged version removes not only many of the folk-dance sequences, but a great deal of character development. The original version is much more coherent, if wordier. In this episode, folk dancing appears as having spiritual, moral, physical, and psychologically redemptive powers. [Read more…]
Published in 1923 and set, Abbey Time, in March through April of 1921, A13_The New Abbey Girls introduces two younger key characters: Rosamund Kane and Madalena (Maidlin) di Ravarati. These girls will support important plot arcs now that Joan Shirley has moved off-stage after her marriage. The New Abbey Girls is a strong episode and one that shows the often-difficult Joy Shirley at her best. In a very mild style, apparent only upon re-reading and thus knowledge of the future, it also starts off her romance. This installment again showcases Cecil Sharp’s folk-dance teachers, particularly “Madam/Duchess” (Helen Kennedy North) and the Pixie (Daisy Caroline Daking). There are many treats for folk-dancers below! [Read more…]
Published in 1927, A12_Jen of the Abbey School takes place immediately before and after A11_The Abbey Girls Go Back to School. Ideally you should read the first half of A11, then the first half of A12, then the second half of A11, wrapping it up with the second half of A12. Jen of the Abbey School takes place from June to December 1920, in Abbey Time. It is an important book for folk dancers as it paints a clear picture of the “folk spirit” as well as incorporating a thrilling folk dance competition. It is also an important book in the Abbey Girl world as it introduces [Read more…]
After last week’s long post, let’s catch our breath for a moment! I want to remind ourselves of what we are doing and also, if you are ready to race out and buy books by Elsie J. Oxenham, to provide A Dramatic Warning. First, while hopefully the old lags remember, new readers should know that I am blogging about EJO’s Abbey Girls books in reading order, not in publication order. We’ve gotten over the tricksy group of the Retrospective Titles, so, after next week’s post on A12_Jen of the Abbey School, RO will pretty much equal PO. Now for the Warning—there is an Abomination in EJO’s publishing world: the Children’s’ Press abridgments. [Read more…]
You might be reading this post in an unprecedented state of lockdown or at least of social isolation. But contagious diseases have been around as long as people have. Measles and, to a lesser extent, diphtheria, scarlet fever, typhoid fever, and chicken pox are an important backdrop in Elsie J. Oxenham’s world and appear frequently. These highly infectious diseases are a Very Useful Plot Device for a novelist! They are more useful than, say, a heavy snowfall or a flood as these latter situations can usually be resolved relatively quickly: roads are opened and floodwaters recede. Instead, contagious diseases can uproot or close a school for a lengthy period of time; they can separate characters or cause them to have to go into quarantine and miss school. A character’s reaction to a disease can also tell us something about her. Elsie J. Oxenham’s approach to contagion and quarantine seems quaint and almost benign in our world of the Covid-19 pandemic. [Read more…]
Appearing in 1957 and the third-to-the-last book to be published prior to Elsie J. Oxenham’s death, A10_Tomboys at the Abbey is, mercifully, the last of the Retrospective Titles. With one important exception, it is a weak installment: repetitive and unconvincing. There is nothing in it for folk dancers, so if that is your principal interest in this blog, you can stop reading right now!
The exception, however, is an extremely interesting one that is not addressed in any of EJO’s other works, as far as I know; in Tomboys, characters successfully advocate for a girl to be able to pursue her career even after marriage. [Read more…]
Published by Collins in 1950, the same year as A34_Guardians of the Abbey, this is the fourth of the Retrospective titles and carries on with the exploits of young Jen Robins, one of the most popular of the Abbey Girl characters. In “Abbey Time,” the story takes place in July through September of 1917, beginning a few weeks after A06_Stowaways in the Abbey, ends. The latter installment was published in 1940; it is amazing [Read more…]
After A01_Girls of the Hamlet Club, Elsie Oxenham published eight books, many dealing with the Camp Fire movement, before returning to Miss Macey’s school and establishing the true beginning of the story of the girls who live in the Abbey of Gracedieu. A02_The Abbey Girls was published in 1920 but is set two years after Cicely’s story, running from February through May 1916 in “Abbey Time.” There is no mention of the War.