Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness. The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves, and this week I have been visiting my Lorna Hill collection, which usually means traveling to the north of England or London. I realized last weekend there are several of her books I never got around to reading, and I have been rectifying that omission. I like her determined heroines, usually obsessed with career aspirations, who are charming but imperfect and lose their tempers regularly.
|One shelf is not enough!|
A Dream of Sadler’s Wells (1950)
Veronica is devastated by her father’s sudden death, and by the loss of her familiar London life, friends, landlady, and dancing lessons. When she is sent to live with affluent cousins in far-distant Northumberland, she is determined not to give up her dream of becoming a dancer. Snobbish cousin Fiona is a thorn in her side but cousin Caroline becomes a friend, and their cousin Sebastian who loves music as much as Veronica loves ballet is the one person in her new life who really understands her – although often infuriates her.
You know how much I like orphan stories, and Veronica is a candid and appealing heroine! She is single-minded about ballet but she has a sense of humor and a great capacity for friendship. I believe only the first two books about Veronica and the fourth in the series about Caroline were published in the US; somehow Clare and I found and enjoyed them. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I learned there was an entire series and numerous other books by Hill. She wrote 42 books, of which I am still missing two.
The Vicarage Children (1961)
More About Mandy (1963)Hill relied on her experience as an Anglican minister’s wife for this three-book series, which is family, not career-focused, set in a tiny town in Northumberland. The father is devout and absent-minded, oblivious to the fact that his daughters can’t afford even an occasional new dress and rely on hand-me-downs (but not from parishioners, thank goodness). The mother is beautiful but tired, used to scrimping; Ally, the oldest sister, complains a lot and gets into financial jams; Mandy who is nearly 14 when the series starts is the glue of the family; Michael becomes obsessed with archeology; and the youngest is Binny, a supposedly precious toddler, beloved by all, although Mandy seems to spend most of her time caring for him and I got tired of him by the third book. They live just south of Hadrian’s Wall, and Roman ruins play a large part in the story. These remind me a little bit of Geoffrey Trease's Bannermere books.
There’s no real reason why I should be the one to write this story, except that I’m the only person in our family who ever finishes anything, and, as every author knows, it’s easy enough to start a book; it’s when you get to about the third chapter that the difficulty begins. Either the quarantine for the infectious disease you’ve been suffering from has run out, or something crops up . . . Mandy, The Vicarage Children
I've been wondering if a lot of books will result from the current quarantine! As I said in my pandemic reading guide, I prefer books that don't dwell on our dystopian nightmare.
Mandy and her siblings have entertaining adventures and eat delicious-sounding food but what I liked best about the series is the sense of place. Despite no electricity and no running water, the vicarage and its environs are lovingly described and even Ally is delighted when she comes home from boarding school. In the third book, the family finally gets a holiday and I forgive Ally being a pain because on the strength of one week’s driving experience, she drives the family car all the way to Skye, which would scare anyone. Hill’s description of Skye made me determine to plan a trip, once one can do such things again. I also like Ben Logan, son of the local squire, who starts off admiring Ally but gratifies me by shifting his attention to Mandy, by the third book. There is also an appearance in The Vicarage Children in Skye by Annette Dancy of Dancing Peel. Hill realizes how much her readers like hearing about favorite characters and they appear and reappear in different books.
|Alas, my copy is not autographed|
By the way, when I decorated the guest room, where most of my children's books reside, my sister encouraged me to use accent paint in this white bookshelf and I am so pleased with the way it turned out.