Author: Mabel Esther Allan
Publication: Walker and Company, hardcover, 1976
Genre: YA Suspense
Setting: 20th century EnglandDescription: When Fennel Chalfont learns she has inherited three tiny islands near Wales from an aunt, she invites her best friend Sue to go live there with her, as one does. After Fennel’s mother died, she had finished school in Liverpool and did secretarial training before getting a job in Oxford. Both Fennel and Sue want to be writers and think uninterrupted time on a remote island will nurture their ambitions. However, not only Fennel’s lawyer but also everyone they meet thinks they are too young to live so remotely. The girls move into great-aunt Linda’s house where even the caretaker warns them to leave and his granddaughter Ceiredwen is actively hostile. When Fennel and Sue begin to notice mysterious lights and goings-on they are puzzled rather than worried until cut off from civilization by the rising tide.
My Impression: Fennel’s inheritance consists of three small islands in a northwestern estuary. One is basically a rock, one has some grazing, and the largest has a house, the ruins of an old Abbey, four cottages rented to mainland families, and one inhabited by a caretaker. The ebb and flow of the tide that cuts off Great Seal Island from the mainland is very dramatic and reminds me of Enid Blyton’s Adventure series, although this is not one of MAE’s strongest titles. Shy Fennel is forced to grow up fast when she takes possession of her great aunt’s dilapidated house which has rats and no hot water. She realizes her first optimistic idea about turning the house into a B&B might have been overly ambitious. An orphan herself, Fennel also feels a sense of responsibility toward Ceiredwen, who lost her father several years earlier and turns out to be an ardent Welsh nationalist, as he was.
Luckily, the girls are not completely alone: Sue grew up in an orphanage but has a boyfriend at university and Fennel meets a charming young teacher, Michael, who knows the islands because his family uses a cottage as a birdwatching base. Michael takes the girls’ concerns seriously without bossing them around and Fennel is soon smitten:
I might be in love now. I found myself thinking of Michael a good deal, especially just before I fell asleep. But it wasn’t a week since we had first met [editor’s note – it never is, in MAE land!] I certainly couldn’t talk about it, even to Sue.I always like that MAE’s heroines are working girls and, while she may include romance, the “right” hero lends a hand, rather than stifling the main character’s independence. Even Alex, who does not sound impressive from Sue’s description shows up and turns out to be less comfortable and more dynamic than expected!
“Well, sometimes I wonder if I am. I only know I can live happily without Alex for a time. I love being here!” Sue said almost passionately. “I like being free, and starting to fix the house, and quite soon I’m going to write again. I adore your islands, Fenny, and I even find the mystery exciting. If we’re in danger . . . well, I don’t understand it, but I mean to . . . .“
“Alex is all right,” Sue said. “He’s not wildly exciting, but anyway, that kind of thing doesn’t last. Maybe I’ll settle for comfortable marriage. But that isn’t going to bother me now. Alex can get on with his work and I’ll get on with mine. I must have my own money; all women should have that.”
|Mabel Esther Allan|
Links: Bookfinder.com * WorldCat
Source: InterLibrary Loan. I own about 40 of her books but she wrote 170 so I definitely will never have a complete collection! My favorites are the ballet books, Time to Go Back, Romansgrove, and a few of the mysteries.
This is my sixteenth book for the Cloak and Dagger Challenge.