Elsie J Oxenham's Abbey Girls

For as long as I can remember (almost!) I have collected and read girls' school fiction. The genre is dominated by the "Big Four" authors: Elinor M Brent Dyer, Angela Brazil, Elsie J Oxenham and Dorita Fairlie Bruce. I have all of their books in my collection, even the most scarce.

There are many more writers within the genre, but these four writers stand out because of their prolific output and, except in the case of Angela Brazil, their creation of long series of books with memorable characters and settings.

My first loves from the Big Four have always been Brent Dyer and Brazil. From the moment I first discovered these authors I was hooked. Later, I read and enjoyed all of Fairlie Bruce's books, but they didn't make the impact of Brazil and Brent Dyer. Dimsie is great but she couldn't compare with the Chalet School girls or Brazil's wonderful creations.

So, even though I have all of Elsie J Oxenham's books in my collection, until recently, I had never read any! I'm not sure why. I suspect that my early attempts to read the Abbey books were frustrated by the Children's Press editions of the novels. I didn't appreciate how much these editions had been tampered with and how this affected the stories. So I simply gave up and enjoyed the beautiful books on the shelves and accepted that I would probably never read them. Then, one day, earlier this year, I picked up Girls of the Hamlet Club and I loved it. I was amazed that I hadn't enjoyed these books before. I finally understood why so many people rave about the Abbey books.

To date, I have read five Abbey Girls books. I dithered about the order in which to read the books. Should I read them in the order Oxenham wrote them? Or should I read the retrospective titles in chronological order? Finally, I decided on chronological order and I'm glad that I did. The series is glorious and I'm loving the Abbey setting. The characters are well-rounded and I am finding many similarities between these novels and the Chalet School books. I'm sure as the series progresses I will find even more similarities.

There are about 40 books to read so this should keep me busy for some time!