Antonia Forest

Anna Clare McDuff amcduff at math.sunysb.edu
Fri May 2 06:52:43 EDT 2003


On Fri, 2 May 2003, Emma Comerford wrote:

> Wow! Thanks for this Anna! Although I've never read Antonia Forest, there
> are other books there that are making come up with even more ingenious
> justifications as to why I can afford books on my very limited budget! And
> of course, seeing as everyone is raving on about Antonia Forest I'm even
> starting to wonder if I need to eat over the next few weeks...

	It's dreadful isn't it? When GGBP first started and were only
doing a handful of books a year I used to buy all of them, but now I
simply cannot afford to & have to pick & choose knowing that everything I
fail to buy will probably remain unavailable for a long, long time as the
books tend to sell to collectors who hang onto them like grim death! If
you want the Forests (or indeed anything else of theirs) I warn you not to
dawdle, they don't keep huge numbers of unsold books on hand & tend to
print up just enough to fill pre-orders with a few over & the dealers that
buy them tend to sell them on pretty quickly too. Some of the La Rochelles
went out of print within a month, and I think the second reprinting of
Falconer's Lure was a small one.

	If you need help making your mind up about Antonia Forest, and I
would think that anyone tempted by the GGBP list would adore Forest as
long as you don't require your reading to be too sweet (and as you're on a
DWJ list we can discount that possibility!), there's an excellent website
here:

http://www.maulu.demon.co.uk/AF/

	There's an article there that I think sums up the Marlow's world,
or at least their attitude to Ann Marlow, rather well. Actually I'll quote
a bit of it below, as it seems to fit in with various threads here!
Reading it over I can see why there might be a fair bit of overlap between
DWJ's fans & Antonia Forest's...

http://www.maulu.demon.co.uk/AF/articles/familyfailing/index.html

>From Fen Crosbie's Article:

	"At Kingscote things are much more realistic. The girls do not all
get on together in harmony, but are often very unpleasant to each other.
They seem to have little respect for the staff, who are depicted as being
distant from the girls' lives and possessing little understanding of them
and even less affection for them. Indeed, the girls do not even bother to
invent nicknames for the staff, with the exception of Miss Cromwell,
referring to them by surname only on most occasions. It is clear that
there exist in the school great tensions between the staff and the girls,
and between different cliques among the girls. Whereas we all know that it
would be quite impossible for any girl to remain unhappy at the Chalet
School for more than one term -- because she will cheer up as soon as she
sees the light and starts to act like a Christian -- we can well imagine
many girls going through their entire time at Kingscote in a state of
misery which the staff neither notice nor care much about. "

End Quote From Fen Crosbie's Article

	Forest is astringent to put it mildly, she began writing a black
satire on the traditional Girl's School Story where all the stock plots of
the school story appear only they are resolved *much* more realistically
much to the woe of everyone involved.  And though she quickly rescues her
characters from the roles required of them by Autumn Term, so as Minnow
says they are not typey at all, but real awkward people, she always
maintains that commitment to upsetting the applecart, possibly the most
obvious example from our perspective now is her staunch refusal to have
any truck with the burgeoning 20th Century English middle class, except
whe she needs a really loathsome figure of fun & a working class person
won't do... The Marlow family are very much from the impoverished post-war
upper class. Real officer material. Another example I suppose would be her
attitude to religion, in which she refuses to bow to "let's all get on
together" conventions and makes the various religious issues her
characters (C of E, Roman Catholic and Jewish) encounter genuinely thorny
problems for them... I seem to remember she began in the Jewish faith &
converted to Catholicism herself which explains some of her perspective I
think. I do hope she finishes that next book she's working on! The time
scale of her series is a strange one as she sets each book in a
contemporary period, no matter that the girls in Autumn Term (1948) could
be grandmothers now, they are still children in Run Away Home (1982).  So
you can watch the same people through different points in the late 20th C.
I'd love to see what she makes of the world today...

> Out of curiosity, have the males on the list read any of the books/authors
> published by this company? Or have people's brothers/friends etc? I was
> just wondering if they truly were "girl's books".

	It would be interesting to know! In my experience, most men have
not ever even heard of these authors, but there is a small subset of avid
collectors...

	Anna


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