Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Rising Tide, a YA novel of suspense by Mabel Esther Allan

Title: The Rising Tide
Author: Mabel Esther Allan
Publication: Walker and Company, hardcover, 1976
Genre: YA Suspense
Setting: 20th century England
Description: 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.

“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.”
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!  
Mabel Esther Allan
The de Grummond Collection at USM has a surprising amount of MAE materials in its collection. It appears that founder Dr. Lena de Grummond (whose name may be familiar to those who enjoyed the Childhood of Famous Americans biographies, although I doubt that Jeff Davis, Confederate Boy has a lot of takers these days) began corresponding with MAE in 1966, seeking materials. Overseas postage was a lot less then! I will have to check it out when I go down to visit.

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.


Lark said...

I want to inherit an island with a house on it! What a fun sounding story. :)

Jeanne said...

I've never heard of this author before, but will look her up.

TracyK said...

I look forward to hearing about your visit to the University of Southern Mississippi. Where is it in the state?

CLM said...

Nearly every bookish inheritance sounds interesting, Lark, don't they? Lately, I seem to come across a lot that involve cleaning and bringing a neglected home back to life or turning into a money-making venture.

Jeanne, Mabel Esther Allan was more popular in England than in the US but quite a few of her books were published here and my library had a good 10 or so. I really like The Ballet Family and We Danced in Bloomsbury Square if you ever come across either one.

Tracy, I would like to visit USM in the fall. USM is in Hattiesburg and I have only been to Oxford when my father was on sabbatical there. Then I would like to visit Birmingham on my way home, but it is too soon to make plans.

TracyK said...

I haven't been to Birmingham proper in many years, but the areas around Birmingham are all gorgeous, green and lush with trees. I suppose you are used to that where you live, but in California, especially Southern California, it is dry and yellow and brown. Santa Barbara is close, but not the same.

I have cousins who live in a small town in Mississippi (Batesville) but I have never visited any of the larger towns and cities.

Lex @ Lexlingua said...

The idea of receiving a spooky or tumbledown or other mysterious house as legacy is always so intriguing! I realize that dozens of books have been written about this, especially of the Gothic lit variety, but it really always catches my eye. This looks to have been a very enjoyable read, and one of those "YA" reads that would appeal to older readers as well.

Ruthiella said...

This sounds like a delightful read with just the right amount of adventure and romance.

Your comment about the Jeff Davis bio was funny but also sad, particularly in light of America's continued inability to deal with the Civil War and why it happened and who "won", etc. You know, I might have even read that biography as a kid. My library had a huge shelf of them and I used to read them one after another. The only female bio that I recall was for Betsy Ross. Thankfully kids have access to a broader look at history now and who was important and why.

CLM said...

Ruthiella, I read every single one of those Childhood Biographies too. There actually were a fair number about girls - Amelia Earhart, Kansas Girl; Jane Addams, Lame Girl, and one about Mary Todd Lincoln in which she was obsessed with getting a hoop skirt. However, my mother put her foot down when I read one about Robert E. Lee and emerged without knowing about his role in the Civil War, and said I was ready for real biographies!

There is an old-fashioned novel about Jefferson Davis' wife Varina called The Proud Way that my mother had growing up (it's good although does not adequately explain what she saw in this man who was 18 years older). I mentioned it to someone a couple years ago who told me she was a descendant of Varina Davis. Amazingly, I found another copy of the book but of course do not remember who it was.