So I read a fair few things last week, some from series that I’ve talked about before and some that you’ll see pop up in other posts over the next few weeks. But BotW is one of those where very much not recommending the book that I’m talking about, but just needed to talk about it because it’s bonkers.
Bessie Marchant wrote adventure stories for girls in the first half of the twentieth century. She was the subject of one of the talks at this summer’s Book Conference, and I bought this after the talk because it promised to be absolutely crazy. And oh boy, did it deliver.
Firstly I cannot convey to you exactly how much plot this has got. It’s under 250 pages, but it has a kidnapping, a runaway marriage, the rescue that you can see on the cover above, the heroine’s attempt to replace her missing (presumed kidnapped) brother in the family firm, a subplot around a will, a shipwreck and a romance – and that’s just the main stuff. Our heroine is Jane – she’s basically a plucky doormat who will Do The Right Thing – she puts everyone else’s interests ahead of her own but secretly is smarter than all of them. Or at least I think that’s what Marchant was aiming for, it’s hard to tell because the writing is so muddled. At one point within the space of a page Jane goes from thinking it’s ridiculous that the senior partner in the firm has retired to study bees to completely understanding it because his garden is so pretty.
The dialogue is consistently dreadful – in a genre where dialogue can sometimes be a bit weird, it jumps out as feeling particularly unrealistic. It’s meant to be set in Argentina but to be honest it’s basically Generic South America as envisaged by someone who has never been there. It also has all of the British colonialist attitudes of a lot of the adventure books for girls and boys, although thankfully it doesn’t have much religion in it.
As I said, this is very much not a recommendation – it is is objectively terrible, but if you are a Girls own reader who has mostly read school stories, this and C Bernard Rutley will give you a taste of the utter bonkers that got published before World War Two.
I bought my copy at the book conference for £5, and that’s probably too much to pay for this – but the talk was genuinely entertaining and the speaker was selling her spares so how could I not get one. I have no idea where you could find a copy, and suggest you don’t try.