Saturday, December 16, 2017

Honor Arundel - The High House

Publisher: Piccolo Books (1966)
Author: Honor Arundel
Title: The High House

Good books stay inside you forever, no doubt about that. I read this book when I was in my early teens, during the 70s. How it came to be in our house in Bangalore, I don't know.  My father was a compulsive book collector and somehow this was among his stuff. What could a Professor of Political Science have in common with a young adult novel? Nothing. Maybe one of his students left it in his house and he just lugged it around.

Whatever the reason, it was  fortuitous for me. I loved the book and read it several times. Later, nothing remained in my mind except that it was probably called High something and was about an orphan girl forced to live with her eccentric aunt.  I had to look for various combinations, trying my search via the name 'High Place' or something, and also via the plot. After much searching, I hit paydirt when I found a mention of the book on Goodreads.

From here it should have been plain sailing. But wait. The book was no longer in print, not on kindle and available only in certain countries. As I have a daughter in one of the countries, I asked her to buy the Emma series for me.  When I visited her, the books were on the bookshelf.  The first thing I did, before I had been cured of my jetlag, was to read them.

The High House is about a newly orphaned 13 year old girl, Emma, and her brother, Richard. They have lived happily in London in the comfort of their house, loved by their parents and looking forward to a good life. Tragedy strikes when their parents are killed in a car crash.  They have two aunts, sisters of their mother and father, who decide to take one child each.

Richard is offered a home with Aunt Laura, their father's sister, as she has a son already and figures that the boys will be good company for each other. Emma gets her mother's sister, Patsy.  Patsy is an artist and lives in Edinburgh.  She has a reputation for being eccentric.

Emma is methodical in her ways, a creature of habit.  She is horrified by the untidy aunt who cooks and cleans fitfully.  However, she is very kind to Emma.  After comparing notes with her brother, she finds that Aunt Laura would have been more suited to her tastes.  She is the one who runs her house like a ship, with set timings for everything.  In fact, once their Insurance money comes in, Laura may taken in Emma as well.

When the time comes, will Emma like to go away from her school, her friend Elizabeth, the ancient High House where Patsy lives, and her life in Edinburgh?

The book is beautifully written in a sparse style where more is conveyed through less. In skillful words we get a wonderful sketch of Emma, Aunt Patsy, Richard, Aunt Laura and the attractive city of Edinburgh.  It is a charming book and I can imagine why it did not leave my head even after nearly 5 decades.

Publisher: Piccolo (1968)
Author: Honor Arundel
Title: Emma's Island

This is a sequel to the wonderful book listed above.

Emma is now 15 and her eccentric Aunt Patsy and her new husband Stephan have suddenly decided to go live on Stranday, an island near Oban.  So poor Emma is uprooted once more.

Life on a small island is quite something else, and Emma soon learns how to tackle it.  Aunt Patsy cannot do without her, it is clear. Stephan also depends on Emma a lot and she is happy to be of use.

Things cannot remain the same, however.  Emma has to decide what to do after her school is up.  She ought to be thinking of college but is loth to leave the island.

She also feels the pangs of first love when she meets Alistair.

Publisher: Piccolo (1970)
Author: Honor Arundel
Title: Emma in Love

The lovesick Emma decides to continue her education in Edinburgh.  It would be lovely to be close to her brother Richard once more, not to mention Alistair who lives in nearby Glasgow. She returns to the school she went to when she last lived in Edinburgh, Parkhill and reunites with her friend Elizabeth.

Emma has a tendency to be a doormat because of which her brother Richard and her Aunt Patsy are content to walk all over her.  She is able to meet Alistair, but not as often as she likes.  Our beloved Emma has yet to learn of life and love.

These are young adult books and they are lovely. All written in a simple style and bring out the predicaments of Emma very well.  They are a far cry from the kind of young adult books available these days.


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