‘All Because of Posy‘ is another of my childhood books which had migrated to the culling pile, earmarked for going to the next charity drive.
(Take note for later:
Gwen = Gwendoline = Lyn)
My efforts to find background on the author, Kathleen O’Farrell, have not born much fruit, beyond her being a prolific writer of adventure stories for young girls. But we can praise her for that. In All Because of Posy, published by Peal Press, there is not a male protagonist to be found, giving rise to the tantalising prospect that O’Farrell was an early feminist.
When I opened the book to re-read, I quickly discovered that this book cannot be culled from my collection. Those of you who have read my memoir, I Belong to No One, will realise the importance of my substitute mother, Kulpie. I see from the flyleaf that she gifted this book to me for Christmas 1965, the year I was ten.
This is a well-written rollicking mystery adventure, which, with our jaded 21st century view, might say has a predictable and improbable plot resolution, but I can say, hand on heart, that when I was ten, it would have totally immersed me.
Posy is mourning the loss of her vibrant sister, Poppet, two years older, who lacks the same concerns for ladylike behaviour as her younger sister. Posy has only just turned thirteen and her correct name is Primula May. On holiday in Brackenthorpe Bay, near Sandcliffe (Norfolk??), Poppet proposes to swim to Rabbit Island early one morning. Posy won’t have a bar of it. Poppet goes out on her own, and of course, goes missing and her body is never found (or we wouldn’t have a plot). Posy blames herself.
Posy, already the paler of the two sisters, is wasting away with grief, and is sent to her father’s sister, Aunt Minnie, who runs a small, dry grocery store in Dingleford. By this time we have a bundle of minor characters, the only one who doesn’t have a forward role is Mother Mary Michael, from the school the two girls attended, but she does provide the motivation for Posy to question the perceived narrative of what happened to Poppet.
In Dingleford, Posy sees a young girl being driven in a blue limousine that is the image of Poppet. No one believes her, and her aunt forbids Posy to mention Poppet’s name again. Poppet, aka Patsy (her real name) lives with her ultra-rich reclusive aged grandmother, Mrs Melrose, in the big house on the hill. But Poppet came there mysteriously after being found wandering on a road near Sandcliffe and has lost her memory. Posy takes a job at the big house doing the mending. Posy is good at sewing. And lots of other lovely, considerate things, such as weighing up and bagging her aunt’s dry goods every morning before going up to the big house. Reckless Patsy, by contrast, has a habit of tearing her precious and pretty NYLON clothes (remember when that was an innovation?), which is just so like the careless and carefree Poppet.
One of the things I loved about this book, reading it as an adult, is how well-behaved, mature, and helpful all the young female characters are; more women than I will elaborate on here. Was this representative, or meant to instruct we gullible young girls? If so, it didn’t ultimately work with me. But it is sweet. I might have liked to grow up to be such an empathetic, caring, lovely girl as Posy. (Yeah, that was a fail).
Posy and Poppet’s parents (Mum’s real name is Patsy – did you see the connection coming? – spelt connexion, all the way through the book), despite all their love and hard work, are on the point of destitution on account of his failing heart, and have to give up their lovely unkempt, dilapidated home called Greydawn Cottage (whose doorknocker is a golden elf), with the massive garden which includes trees named Snow White, Gaylord (is that okay today?), Lofty Emerald, and Silver Gleam – because the girls loved naming things – and move into town to a two bedroom flat above a fish and chip shop.
Of course, everything turns out right in the end. Poppet’s memory is restored, Posy’s claim is validated, their mother turns out to be the rich old lady’s daughter who was stolen by gypsies when she was very young, and the side characters restore their long-lost love (Mr Fairweather – the hermit who lives in the woods and looks after stray animals – who was struck off the medical register because he lost a patient, who was the brother of his girlfriend (I mean the dead patient), who went on to be a single nurse-on-the-shelf (I mean the sister of the dead patient) and a good friend of Posy and Poppet when they were still living in the enchanted Greydawn Cottage … look, are you keeping up with me here? – anyway, after his near death experience from falling out of a tree while trying to rescue a kitten, and then spending a cold couple of nights on the forest floor while his rescue animals starve – OMG I really, really hope you are keeping up here – then he clung to life in hospital in a touch and go scene, while Geraldine (the on-the-shelf nurse) wiped his fevered brow and whispered sweet nothings – find each other again after many wasted years. And I think they get married. Or engaged … Listen, it’s a side plot. Even I am getting confused by this point…)
It’s a sweet story, that did the ten-year-old me absolutely no harm, and one which I thoroughly enjoyed reading again after all these years. And …
It was All Because of Posy.