Monday, February 25, 2019

The Girls Gone By edition of Mystery at Witchend

This paperback was an unexpected find in the bargain box at Waterstones on Saturday. It is the second printing of the Girls Gone By edition of the first of Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine series.

Unlike many Saville paperbacks, it has the full text of the original hardback. The Armada editions, for instance, were heavily cut and much of the character development and period detail in the stories was lost.

I have a first edition of Mystery at Witchend from 1943, though without its dustwrapper. It is rare to find the book with a wrapper, but one such copy has sold on the net this evening for £420. I am surprised it wasn't more.

This Girls Gone By edition  has the Gretchen Breary illustrations from the first edition and, as an appendix, the Bertram Prance ones used in printings from 1945 onwards.

There is also a slightly sniffy article about errors and inconsistencies in the text - don't they know there was a war on? - and a good essay by Saville's friend Mary Cadogan.
In the hills and meadows there is mud as well as mystery, beauty and drama. Life at wonderful Witchend does have negative aspects. Water has to be pumped; the coalman comes only once a year, so firewood has to be gathered regularly; milk has to be fetched twice a day from a nearby farm; Dickie has to be pulled out of a bog; and there is heavy, unyielding rain - the "slow drip, drip of moisture from the trees".

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