My thanks to Steerforth Press/Pushkin Press and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.
Maddy Alone is the second book in Pamela Brown’s Blue Door series. (Find my review of the first book, The Swish of the Curtain here). This one was first published in 1945 (the author must have been just out of her teens at this point), and is being brought out again by Pushkin Press. In the first book, seven children, Sandra, Nigel, Jeremy, Bulldog, Lyn, Vickie and Maddie set up their own theatre company in Fenchester, where they live—they put up shows (from Shakespeare to their own plays) during the holidays and for different occasions, and finally manage to convince their parents to send them to drama school. In Maddy Alone, all the children have gone to drama school except Maddy who is now twelve but still too young to join them. Working (not very hard) at school, she feels it is unfair that they get to go to study drama while she has to study arithmetic (or in her words, or something like them, about Mr. A, Mr. B and Mr. C, who dig wells). She is excited when the holidays approach for all the others will be back and they can put on a show but it turns out that only Sandra is coming home while the rest are to stay back in London where they are needed for a show. This naturally disappoints her some more, especially since even Sandra when she’s there is more interested in going shopping with their mother. But some excitement is in store for Maddy when a film crew comes into Fenchester to shoot a historical film, and Maddy finds herself the leading lady! Maddy becomes a film star alright but also remains Maddy, able at most times to get her own way, and to get people to do what she wants, and up to plenty of mischief in the process.
This was a really quick read, much shorter than the first book but still very good fun. This time, as I already wrote, the story pretty much focuses on Maddy. One can relate to her feeling of being left out of things (of all the excitement, so to speak) because of her age, and her inability to understand/accept that the others had also got to go to school as well, but at times, at least initially, she did also come across as a tad more childish than I liked. But as things move along, and she gets her big opportunity, I also found myself appreciating how she did stay grounded and normal despite all the attention that was coming her way, and the possibility of fame—she is excited by things that are happening and not so very interested in regular school life, but doesn’t acquire airs or always want to dress up or play film star. In fact, quite the opposite, she is the characteristic Maddy “bullying” if I can call it that more than one person (including a gruffy old peer) to get what she wants, questioning things that are not to her liking (even if to means giving up the opportunities she has), and worried about letting the other Blue Doors down if she doesn’t do well enough. She learns a thing or two in the process but essentially remains the same mischievous girl. It was good fun reading of her adventures and antics (which at one point reminded me of the Family at One End Street), and of Mrs Potter-Smith making a nuisance of herself as always, and I can’t wait to pick up the next one and see what the children get up to next.
Pamela Brown, who started this series when she was just in her teens (13 according to Wikipedia; the first book was published when she was 16), was a writer, actress and television producer, and like the children in the books put on plays with her friends when a child.
The book comes out on 14 May 2019.