Elsie J Oxenham's The Twins of Castle Charming

I recently stumbled across a book that I have been searching for, for many years. Elsie J Oxenham's The Twins of Castle Charming is one of the most sought after books of its type. It's so scarce that I have never seen a copy and only known of one copy in existence! I was so surprised and thrilled when I spotted it at York Bookfair! The book was eye-wateringly expensive, but as it is the only Oxenham novel I don't have, I decided to take the plunge and buy it.

I've read a few reviews of The Twins of Castle Charming over the years and I've always found them rather negative. However, I loved the book. I have to say that it didn't read like a typical Oxenham novel - no folk dancing, buried treasure or abbeys in sight. Instead, the story is closer to an early E M Brent Dyer Chalet School novel or an Angela Brazil. 

The setting of the novel and the characters have such a lot in common with Brent Dyer's The School at the Chalet or any of the other Chalet School books set in the Austrian Tyrol. I wondered how much Oxenham had influenced Brent Dyer. I think that The Twins of Castle Charming was published before any of the Chalet School books were written. A quick look into publication dates shows that Twins was published in 1920 and the first Chalet School book in 1925. So, there's certainly a possibility that Brent Dyer had read Twins before embarking on her mammoth Chalet School series.

The storyline and characters also had the feel of an Angela Brazil novel. I was particularly reminded of Nesta's New School, with its twins separated as babies and the first half of the book, at least, set in Switzerland. Again, Nesta's New School was published after The Twins of Castle Charming, in 1932.

Having raced through The Twins of Castle Charming, I quickly followed up with a re-read of Nesta's New School. I wanted to see if the similarities were as I remembered. And they were. Both are excellent stories and, in many ways, quite different, but there are definite similarities. 

Reading three of the "Big Four" authors, the only one missing from this post is Dorita Fairlie Bruce, of the early to mid Twentieth Century, made me realise that, whilst they each have their own style and sense of place and characterisation, they also have many things in common. They were all clearly inspired by foreign travel and Europe, especially the Austrian and Swiss Alps. Twins also feature in all of the books. Brent Dyer goes one step further and triplets feature in her later books! I also love the number of languages which feature. Many of the characters speak English, French and German fluently as well as Italian. The authors describe the countries where the books are based beautifully. There are trips to cities and beauty spots and plenty of armchair travel.

I'm delighted that I've finally completed my Elsie J Oxenham collection and I also have every book by the other three of the "Big Four". So, what next I'm asking.