Hope you are well today.
I’ve spoken a few times about the books that affected my life when I was little, particularly the Abbey Girls books by Elsie J Oxenham. Elsie died in January 1960, so to commemorate the anniversary of her passing, I thought I would look into Elsie’s life and the Abbey series a little more.
Elsie was born in 1880 and was one of six children, four girls and two boys. Her father was also a writer and she adopted Oxenham, his pen-surname, when her first book (it was not part of the Abbey series) was published in 1907. Elements of her life unsurprisingly turned up in her fiction, for example folk dancing played a large part in the Abbey series and Elsie was a member of the English Folk Dance Society.
There are over 30 Abbey books and some related shorter stories. Apparently characters from the series show up in some of Elsie’s other works and characters from her other works show up in the Abbey series. Although not all of her works are interrelated, I love the idea that her characters moved in and out of each other’s lives and continued to exist beyond the confines of one series.
I have five of the Abbey books, thanks to my mum, and as I said in this post the books made me want red hair, twins and my own Abbey. They also read well alongside my love of dancing and I remember making up my own steps to the dances Elsie described that must have come from her folk dance background. I was also more than a little enchanted by the May Queens who each had their own unique colour and flower associated with their “reign”.
Elsie’s books are collectors’ items and, more than 50 years after her death, there are appreciation societies internationally for those who collect and/or are interested in her works. It is my plan to track down the rest of the Abbey series, the main list you can find here. I’ve had a look and it might prove to be time consuming and a little costly, but I’d love to know more about Joy, Jen, Rosamund and Maidlin among the many, many others who appeared in the books. Many of the books are now out of print although Girls Gone By Publishers reprinted some of the series and it is still possible to get them second hand. The hunt is on 😉
Do you know the Abbey series? Are there books from your childhood that you would like to revisit? I’d love to know, so please get in touch either here or on twitter.
Background information and further reading: