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Seven Wild Swans: A Story for Rangers by…

Seven Wild Swans: A Story for Rangers (1936)

by Patience Gilmour

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Recently added byAbigailAdams26, abbeygreen



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Laurie Trevelyan, Ann Malory and Dorothy Benson, three English girls who met in the south of France in Gilmour's Three's a Company, and became fast friends, return in this second adventure, which is once again centered around girl guiding. Now based in and around London, young authoress Ann, medical student Laurie, and child-minder Dorothy have remained friends, and are still committed to the ideals of guiding. Specifically, they are now all Rangers - an upper level of guiding for young women in the late teens and early twenties - and with Ann's prompting, decide to form a very special company, one in which girls engaged in all sorts of activities, and from all walks of life, can compare notes and share strength. The first addition to their company comes when the girls help out at St. Elizabeth's orphanage, and befriend the maid and child-minder, Miggs, a fresh-faced country girl who is also a Guide. Soon hairdresser in training Clare Denis, with an eye for making people beautiful; pilot and airplane mechanic Sally McLane, who enjoys nature photography as well; and scholar Elizabeth Craven, whose prickly outer shell and seeming snobbery hide a lonely and insecure young woman, all join the company. Many adventures follows, as the girls tackle everything from taking an inner-city guiding company in hand, to restoring a ruined country chapel, together with a group of Rovers...

Found at a used book sale a number of years ago, Seven Wild Swans is a book about which I knew very little, going in. Of course, the sub-title gives an idea that the story is connected to Guiding/the Rangers, but I picked it up largely because it was older - I tend to be quite interested in vintage children's fiction - and because the name Patience Gilmour seemed vaguely familiar to me. As it turns out, Gilmour is a pseudonym used by girls' school-story author Catherine Christian, so undoubtedly I read about her in Sue Sims and Hilary Clare's encyclopedia of that genre. There is no mention anywhere in the book of there being a previous adventure featuring these characters, but the opening passage does leave the impression that they had a previous adventure, so I was not surprised to discover that this was but one of a number of stories (four altogether) devoted to the eponymous 'wild swans.' I have since tracked down the first, and hope eventually to locate the latter two. As for the story here, I found it very engaging, and took all the characters to heart. I was particularly struck by the absence of the usual classism to be found in British books of this date. Usually, if there are working class characters, other than the ubiquitous maids or gardeners, they are treated with a certain condescension in the narrative, and by the other characters, and they are rarely allowed to be heroines in their own right. Here there is a mix of girls, from all classes - many of them working or lower middle-class - and there is no sense that they are any less intelligent or true than their middle and upper-class peers. I found that immensely refreshing, and wonder if it can be put down to the (potentially) equalizing influence of Guiding, and which all members of a company are considered sisters? Whatever the case may be, it made a welcome change! Recommended to anyone who enjoys vintage girls' fare, or is interested in stories about Guiding for girls. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Sep 14, 2015 |
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