20/08/2008

The Gay Dolphin Adventure (by Malcolm Saville)

I suppose I was about nine or ten when I first started reading Malcolm Saville's books. He wrote several series; some for children of around that age, and others for teenagers. The one I liked best, and which I re-read several times, is the 'Lone Pine' adventure series, set mostly in Shropshire.

It's been twenty years or so since I last read them, but this year decided I'd gradually re-read the whole series: not all at once, but interspersed with other books. I like reading light teenage fiction from time to time, particularly stories like these which began in the 1940s.

'The Gay Dolphin Adventure' is the third in the Lone Pine series, written in an age when the word 'gay' meant 'cheerful'. The Gay Dolphin is the name of a hotel, owned by Mrs Warrender. Her son Jon is 17, and his cousin Penny, who lives with them, is 15. They decide to embark on a hunt for treasure, based on several old documents, a few maps, and a letter from their late Uncle Charles. Before long they meet David Morton and his twin brother and sister, Dickie and Mary, and join forces.

This is an exciting book, which introduces Miss Ballinger, a short but big-built woman who appears in various others of the series later on. It's set in the real town of Rye, where there used to be 'free traders' (ie smugglers). Much of the geography of the town is apparently real - or was, sixty years ago when the book was first published, although the hotel itself is fictional.

The story is fast-paced, and if the style seems old-fashioned at times, it's not sufficiently so to be annoying. Friendship and loyalty are important in these novels, and as with so many books for children, there's a strong moral good vs evil theme.

This series was intended for teenagers when first written, but would probably be enjoyed more by today's ten- and eleven-year-olds who haven't yet developed too much sophistication. They would also make a very good read-aloud for children of any age. Of course, teenagers who like this kind of innocent adventure may still enjoy them; and as an adult I still think 'The Gay Dolphin Adventure' is an excellent book.

No need to have read the two earlier books in the series - Mystery at Witchend and Seven White Gates - but I always like reading books in order if I can.

The original hardbacks were published in abridged form in paperback in the 1970s - which is when I came across most of them - but have more recently been republished again by the 'Girls Gone By' publishers. It can often be found second-hand too, particularly the Armada paperback versions.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 20th August 2008

2 comments:

John Phillips said...

re The Gay Dolphin Adventure. The story was actually based on The Mermaid Hotel in Rye.
It as produced as aplay for Childrens Hour (circa 1946.
It took me 34 years to find the name of the incidental
music they music

John Phillips said...

The story was actually based on 'The Mermaid Hotel' in Rye
It was used for 6 part serial on Childrens' hour, circa 1946
It took me 34 years to find the name of the incidental music that was used for the play