[Reading] ➬ The Abbey Girls Again ➳ Elsie J. Oxenham – Horse-zine.co.uk

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10 thoughts on “The Abbey Girls Again

  1. says:

    I am finding reading the Abbey books to be both a very enjoyable pleasure and a fascinating experience Unlike the ladies who introduced me to the series and I suspect first read these when they were a lot younger than I am now, I m coming to the books with a 21st century, adult eye When we have discussed Oxenham books, there are things that have caught me up, that they don t see in quite the same way, and I think that may come from first reading the books as a child or teenager in an earlier time than today, even if still one well removed from when the books were originally written.As quick examples, the works mocked and jeered are used often as descriptors of speaking with a bit of gentle teasing To me, they are harsher words than that, and suggest a degree of meanness on the part of the characters that I m sure the author never intended I ve also been bashed over the head a couple of times by use of the n word in a casual manner totally at odds with all the rightful baggage that comes with the word today.I understand that these books were written nearly 100 years ago I understand they have to be taken in context But at the same time, I think it is important to acknowledge these things.There s a thing I first met in the SFF community, but that I suspect raises its head elsewhere It s the difficult issue of liking problematic things You can love a work, especially an older one that shows its prejudices context age on its sleeve, but still recognise that it contains things that we no longer find appropriate.This is the Oxenham book that really brought that home to me It s partly some of the content of the book I ll come back to that , but it also relates to my health, both physical and mental, at the time I was reading it.There are issues with these books They are really quite terribly classist Our girls tend to be at least upper middle class, and they are generally rich or they become one or both of these over time They are certainly not poor They are the ones with the big houses and who come along to help those less fortunate They go around bestowing their noblese oblige upon those who need it and who is needy is generally decided by the girls rather than the people they are helping.These aren t necessarily bad things Yes, the fortunate should help those with less Yes, they are making the lives of these people better I realise the books are telling a certain kind of fairy tale for girls to get lost in And again, yes, the books were written nearly 100 years ago and the past is a different world But reading it can still make me uncomfortable.The idea that the Abbey books fall into the loving problematic things category for me, anyway was especially brought home to me in the character of Mary Dorothy Due to personality, circumstances, health etc, I probably see myself like Mary Dorothy than Jen or Joy I am a dreamer and always have been I ve also been a big fan of fantasy and science fiction ever since I discovered such imaginative tales existed I ve been making up stories in my head since I can remember and some got written down over the years I have had ME aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 27 years now, and that has brought along its fun friends, anxiety and depression I ve spent a lot of years coming to terms with that, and that these conditions don t make me a weak or unworthy or bad person The most significant factor that has led to this long rumination is probably that as I read this book, I was and still am working my way through a significant episode of both anxiety and depression.Therefore, the immediate assumption that Mary Dorothy is doing something bad pathological even because she tells stories in her head and isn t automatically assertive like our heroines, really punched me in the gut I agree she needed to spend time with real people, learn new things and re engage with the world than she had been doing But I dislike and reject the assumption considered to be gospel truth because it was said by the Pixie that she was mentally unsound That all she had to do was decide and she could start doing all these things that probably went totally against her natural personality type, and then she wouldn t be a bad, mentally ill person, but a good, one of our type of people person Again, context you say, and I acknowledge that that it a valid point The book was written in 1924 after all, not long after soldiers who couldn t deal with the atrocities of the trenches were labelled as cowards with shell shock who should be sent back to the front lines as soon as possible I m not saying EJO thought that I have no idea what she thought on the subject Bringing the defense of context is totally valid But if someone reads this book today, I think those assumptions and assertions become problematic things I wouldn t want a young girl with a dreamer s personality and perhaps an inclination towards anxiety or depression to read this book an come away believing there is something fundamentally wrong with her, or that this makes her a bad person If she has someone to point out the problematic, then this mythical reader can enjoy the story without taking to heart something that is no longer believed to be true But what if she doesn t While I m grumbling, I also felt that it was an indication of the classism of the book that Joy and Jen, both so much younger than Mary Dorothy, took it upon themselves to decide what was wrong with her and that it was their job to fix her It also made me furious that they decided that because they were helping her, that they could totally betray the confidence she had given them and go and discuss it all with the Pixie How dare they Especially after all the fuss in one of the fill in books so I acknowledge it was written later when Jack tried to get Jen to spill the secret of what they had done with the jewels Breaking a promise was wrong then, but it s not if you know better than the poor, person who needs your help but told you something in confidence Absolutely not I ve just written a great deal about what I found wrong with this particular book and how it crystallised what I find difficult with the books in general The thing is, that doesn t mean I didn t like it I kept reading just another chapter when I really should go and do something else As much as I was upset on Mary Dorothy s behalf, I wanted to know what would happen next I wanted it to all work out okay although yes, I would have liked a different take on imagination and possible anxiety, because for all I ve used the terms, I don t think for a moment that Mary Dorothy was mentally ill in any way, shape or form , I wanted to keep hanging out with these characters and I m looking forward to starting the next one.That s what the phrase I ve founded this review on means I like this thing, but I think it has aspects that are problematic If I want to share with others this thing that I like, I feel it is my responsibility to also acknowledge the things I do find problematic Then we can learn to do better ourselves not because we are inherently any better, but because we have 100 years of world progress to consider than Elise Oxenham did and also take the joy, the fun and all the good lessons about how to be decent people that these books offer us.


  2. says:

    This is the book that introduces Mary Dorothy and her sister, bad girl Biddy, and it was something of a disappointment in that it seemed as if it should have been a major event, but really nothing much happens in the book Mary and Biddy meet Jen and Joy and are taken under their wings which is to say, the Abbey girls try and make them into the kind of girls they make everyone into Taken in terms of the series as a whole, however, it s not without interest This establishes Mary as a shrinking, lifeless character, and in the books to come we really get to see her grow and become an increasingly important figure in the lives of those around her It also shows Biddy as she always is caught between her business side the side we re not meant to approve of, of course and her nice side Can you tell I have a soft spot for Biddy Meanwhile, Joy who is at her best here, lacking neither self awareness nor compassion but still retaining something of the self centredness which becomes her defining feature has yet another run in with the Marchwoods next door I m glad to have read this as it s one of the missing pieces I ve always lacked, but it isn t one I ll be returning to over and over.


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