Monday, 17 June 2013

Bilgewater - Jane Gardam

Front Cover
If you are a Jane Gardam fan, you may just have let this slip past you because it was written with young adults in mind and you've perhaps thought  it wasn't for you.  Oh, change your mind, please!  And if you have never read any of hers, maybe you should start with this 200 page novel.
  When I found this recently in a second hand bookshop I felt I needed to read it - and so glad that I did.  She writes beautifully, wordy but never boring or condescending and you don't have to be in your teens to appreciate the feelings described.  You don't need to have any knowledge of boarding schools either (the book is set in one).
Marigold Daisy Green was born and her mother died.  A lumpy child with curly and unruly hair, thick lenses in her glasses, a father who is a housemaster at a boarding school in the North East of England and is one of those vague men who say little on every occasion.  So Marigold is brought up by Paula, the house matron, who spots the child's intelligence, and coaxes her along, teaching her to read, telling her that self pity is not something acceptable and dressing her in old clothes.  Paula, who hails from Dorset, is a lovely character, who knows what's right at all times -  and Paula is in love with Marigold's father.  The blurb on the back of this edition says "....falls in love three times...... Twice it is disastrous, but she is less ridiculous at the end than at the beginning......"   Gardam takes us on that adolescent journey, reminds us how it feels to grow from childhood to adulthood with all it's knocks and uncertainties; and when a crisis occurs in the adult world, reminds us that even academic children can do the right thing.  A lovely, lovely read.  Oh!, and Bilgewater? Marigold's father's name is William, or Bill, so she is Bill's daughter or Bilgewater to all the boys at school.