On 9 Nov 2004 at 11:16, nicky smith wrote:
Trease seemed to have gradually moved to the right until the
Bannermere books

Then Sue said: Actually, I think Trease stayed the same (roughly), though less strident as he grew older; but society moved towards him, so he appears to have moved rightwards.

I think you;re right, Sue, but I also think NBOB is more alternative than it looks now. Trease was trying to write something that offered a reflection of the experience of a wider band of children than the very narrow group of the upper middle class, public school educated child who so often formed the subject of this sort of book (although not exclusively the readership). His children don't have a dead father, or one serving overseas, they have, almost uniquely for this period, one who's just gone off and left them and doesn't write and has divorced their mother. They aren't visiting the countryside as a holiday alternative to their town base, they're moving there, full of trepidation, and misconceptions to start with, but they come to love and appreciate it. They're not churchgoers, at least not initially. Their mother takes up a trade - and a very menial one (judging by the standards of the period when serving in a teashop can be seen as the ultimate degradation) and not only doesn't bat an eyelid but finds it fun. They aren't plentifully supplied with boats, climbing equipment, ponies and caravans. Their one boat is only a rowing one, and they can't use it anyway. The children in their school are of every class, many with marked regional accents about which they don't feel the need to comment overly or judge (let alone offer to help them get rid of them). The local bookseller is revered as a man of culture ( see Feud in the Fifth Remove for opposite view, albeit over ten years earlier). The local farmer is not seen as a means of supplementary childcare ( Oxus, Fell Farm, Arthur Ransome) nor as a local Tescos ('can we have half a dozen eggs and some milk please' - Enid Blyton) but as a respected and knowledgeable man. I love the moment where Bill spots a copy of - is it The Listener? - in the parlour and realises this is an intelligent man he's dealing with. They consult the farmer on legal and social matters and value his opinion, whereas when the Famous Five meet farmers they tend to talk to them like servants or children. The adventures aren't to do with apprehending working class cardboard villains but with understanding the more devious ways unscrupulous adults and bureaucracies can twist and fudge the law to cause injustices (Coroner's courts, Army requisitions) or with the way research can help to uncover truth and right old wrongs (a wartime theft in BBA, and a wartime loss in The Gates of Bannerdale).)

(I was going to say it's also unusual to have the villain be a man who speaks with a decent accent and comes from the upper classes, but Sir Anthony is clearly arriviste and nouveau (like Mr Jemmerling in Great Northern?) so I don't think that counts).

Having said all that, I do think Trease falls down horribly on the subject of girls. I wince every time Bill makes some patronising comment about girls' fuss and chatter and flutter, and I think he treats Penny abominably in Black Banner Abroad. Trease's feminism must have come a long time after his socialism, if at all.

Incidentally, although Ransome's frame of wealthy children having adventures on the lake aided by local farmers acting as background support is more traditional I wouldn't like for a moment to imply I think this means he's a weaker writer. In my mind he's as good as they get....but I have do also, on a different level, enjoy reading Trease. I think the more one thinks about it, the more his reworking of the traditional adventure story subtly and gently broadens its scope.

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