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Bilgewater by Jane Gardam
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Bilgewater (1976)

by Jane Gardam

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Marigold’s father is house master at a boys’ school, so to the boys Marigold is known as Bill’s Daughter, which devolves into the nickname Bilgewater. This book tells of Marigold’s awkward teenage years, of friends and frenemies and crushes and first love.

For the first half or two-thirds of this book, not much happens — and then a great many things happen all at once. It’s hard to explain or summarize, but it has a certain charm. I’d recommend this to fans of Muriel Spark. As for me, I enjoyed it, but probably won’t seek out other books by this author. ( )
  foggidawn | Mar 19, 2018 |
Marigold is the bright (but dyslexic) daughter of a housemaster in a boys' school. The book is about her teenage years, her growing awareness of how other people live, and her honest thoughts. Oddly written in places, but enjoyable anyway. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
I would have read this in one go but I had to repeatedly stop because I was laughing so hard. Right from the start, that bit about the teacher who cannot face forward, and later the bit where Bilge finds she's walked right through the house… these things will never leave me. Gardam has a way of making me know what something must look like without actually describing it.

I also loved the Cinderella set-up. I grew up watching Star Wars (my name's Luke, so you can see what my parents had just seen, back in 1978. Could have been worse. They could have been Tolkien fans), so love finding this myth reused, and reused so well here with the twisted Fairy Godmother / Merlin character in Grace and the unexpected farce of the ending.

Amazingly, I had never heard of Gardam. I'm relatively well informed about writers, but never a whisper. Who's in charge here? Why isn't her name being bellowed from rooftops? Why didn't they make me read this at school? I googled her halfway through, only to find that she's one of the most respected writers working today. This may be my fault… I notice from the stats on this site that most of the people I read are European men. Of the women, the vast majority I had discovered because some kind Bookcrosser had set her book free, as is the case here. I think I have been subconsciously choosing books by people who are like me. Thank God for Bookcrossing! ( )
  Lukerik | Jul 27, 2015 |
An endearing coming of age story about Marigold Green (Bilgewater) set in a seaside town in North Yorkshire in the 1970's.
The world in which the story is set feels almost historical, being written over 30 years ago, and the characters appear almost naive in their inability to understand emotions (indeed, this may be because Marigold's mother died in childbirth and Marigold may be autistic, having a great mathematical mind, although she does not know how she does it).
This is my second reading and, although it can be read as light romantic fiction, it is written with great warmth and literary flair. I really did empathise with the characters, however strangely they acted. It might almost be melodrama, but it did have emotional depth. An enjoyable read. ( )
  CarltonC | Dec 1, 2010 |
Marigold Green is a wonderful name. Not so wonderful when your father's name is Bill. Marigold adopts the unavoidable nickname of Bilgewater as a result (Bill's + daughter = Bilgewater). As so begin's Gardam's story about teenage angst from the point of view of Marigold Green. Because her father is the housemaster to the boys of a boarding school, Marigold has a lot to be anxious about. Having lost her mother at birth, Marigold is naive when it comes to friendships, fashion, relationships with the opposite sex, and even alcohol. She had never seen drunk people before the age of 18. The one thing she does know is literature and many different works are reference throughout the story. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jul 3, 2008 |
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Marigold Green calls herself 'hideous, quaint and barmy'. Other people calle her Bilgewater, a corruption of Bill's daughter. Growing up in a boys' school where her father is housemaster, she is convinced of her own plainness and peculiarity. Groomed by the wise and loving Paula, upstaged by bad, beautiful Grace and ripe for seduction by entirely the wrong sort of boy, she suffers extravagantly and comically in her pilgrimage through the turbulent, twilight world of alarming adolescence.
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"Originally published in 1977, Jane Gardam's Bilgewater is an affectionate and complex rendering-in-miniature of the discomforts of growing up and first love seen through the eyes of inimitable Marigold Green, an awkward, eccentric, highly intelligent girl. The Evening Standard described Bilgewater as "one of the funniest, most entertaining, most unusual stories about young love." Motherless and 16, Marigold is the headmaster's daughter at a private backwater all-boys school. To make matters worse, Marigold pines for head boy Jack Rose, reckons with the beautiful and domineering Grace, and yanks herself headlong out of her interior world and into the seething cauldron of adolescence. With everything happening all at once, Marigold faces the greatest of teenage crucibles."--Amazon.com… (more)

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