The Abbey Girls in Town

Elsie J Oxenholm's Abbey Girls series was around when I was young (well, of course it was -- The Abbey Girls in Town, sixth in the series, was first published in 1925) and I remember there were several volumes in the Mt Hagen library. I tried them, but they didn't take. Probably we had odd volumes, out of sequence, and the plethora of characters confused me (multiple twins, daughters and cousins, loads of people called Janetta, Joan, Jen, Joy, Jandy etc made it impossible to tell them apart!)

Having said that, I didn't mind Abbey Girls in Town, maybe because it's relatively early and the characters were not as confusing as they became later. A lot of people return to these books for comfort reading and I can see why. They are very gentle books, centred on women's friendships -- men are really peripheral to the story, except to become marriage partners and provide sperm for those endless sets of twins.

The main drama in this book is the 'betrayal' of Mary by thoughtless Joy, who forgets to thank her friend for staging a dancing show and thus tumbles from the pedestal of perfection on which Mary had placed her. This is a friendship problem that any school girl can relate to, except that the protagonists are adult women.

I must say I find the fixation on the miraculous saving properties of folk dance in these books quite perplexing -- but hey, I love yoga, so same same I guess? I also liked the arts-craftsy element -- sisters Mary and Biddy are given gorgeous handmade pottery, and everyone ends up with beautiful dresses of handwoven cloth, individually designed for them -- yes please! Everyone is rich, or even if they're poor, they have enough rich friends to bail them out.

One element I disliked was that, before this book opens, Mary has been 'rescued' from 'wasting her life' in 'daydreaming' by Joy and Jen, and now turns her imagination to more healthy pursuits ie writing school stories. Hmmmmmm. No comment!

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