22/05/2008

Seven White Gates (by Malcolm Saville)

I love re-reading my childhood favourites, from time to time. The 'Lone Pine' series by Malcolm Saville is a series of twenty books, which I gradually acquired during the 1970s, my teenage years, although I had read a few of them before that (and borrowed others from the library).

I re-read them all in the mid 1980s, when I was about 25, and thoroughly enjoyed doing so, but have not read them since - until recently. About a month ago I picked up the first of them, 'Mystery at Witchend' and enjoyed it was much as ever. So I determined to read the entire series again, although not directly one after another.

Yesterday I felt in need of another quick, light read so I re-read the second 'Lone Pine' book, 'Seven White Gates'. This features, again, David Morton - who is sixteen - and his loyal, endearing, and frequently aggraving twin siblings, Dickie and Mary, who are nine. It begins, however, with Peter (Petronella) Stirling, who is fifteen, and discovers just before the end of term that she cannot return to her beloved Hatchholt, as her father has to go away. Instead she is to stay with her unknown aunt and uncle, near Barton Beach.

On her way there, Peter encounters some friendly gipsies, and makes friends for life - Reuben, Miranda and Fenella appear in others of the series, as well; I had forgotten that they were introduced in 'Seven White Gates'.

Peter's Aunt Carol turns out to be a delightful woman, but Uncle Micah is a strange, slightly frightening person who wanders the hills alone, and is grieving for his son Charles, who left home years previously after an argument. It seems a little odd that Peter would never have met her uncle - her father's only brother - despite their living in the same county - but then again, this book is written during the war years, when people didn't travel much.

Tom Ingles, the lad who lives near the Mortons, is also involved in this story, and Jenny Harman, the impetuous redhead, is introduced when Peter meets her at the Barton beach post office.

There are no 'baddies' in this book, but it's an exciting adventure nonetheless when the twins go on a night-time wander, and get trapped. The conclusion is perhaps a little unlikely, but makes a very nice ending to the story. I don't mind coincidences in fiction so long as there aren't too many in one book.

This was really intended for teenagers, but today's teens are mostly far too sophisticated for this kind of simple adventure story. Younger children would probably enjoy it - anyone from about the age of seven or eight upwards, or even younger if parents read aloud to them. And, of course, it's nice nostalgia for adults too! I'm very pleased that the whole series is being brought out in facsimile editions of the originals but my version is the paperback Armada edition, which cost me all of 20p back in 1974.

Not the best of the series, but a useful introduction to several people and some places which play important parts in future Lone Pine books.

Review copyright © Sue's Book Reviews, 22nd May 2008. All rights reserved.

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