PBOTD 19th September: Monica Edwards - Frenchman's Secret
The first few books of the Punchbowl Farm are domestic in scale: much more so than the Romney Marsh series. Initially, we are interested in seeing the family struggle with the dilemmas of farming; breeding cows; coping with fences they can’t afford to mend and the resultant escaping animals; and harvest. As the series progresses, however, the plots become more dramatic. Frenchman's Secret (1956) is a particularly good example of this. A new family move into the nearby mill, and the Thorntons befriend them.
Lindsay finds an old map which suggests there is treasure hidden in the old dam above the mill. Roy, one of the mill children, decides that blowing a small hole in the dam should help them find it. The resulting flood is both thrilling and terrifying as the family retreat further and further up the mill to escape the floodwaters.
As it stands, Frenchman's Secret is a good read. What is odd about it is how it relates to the books which followed it. After sharing such a dramatic near death experience, you'd think the two families would carry on their relationship, but no. The mill family disappear completely, and are never mentioned again in any subsequent books.
This isn't the first time that inconsistencies appear. Monica Edwards was ruthless in the pursuit of a good plot. The foal Lindsey that was supposed to be getting as a reward for saving the polo ponies in No Mistaking Corker is referred to in Black Hunting Whip (1950) and the next book Punchbowl Midnight (1951), but after that is never mentioned again.
I did wonder as a child quite what had happened to the colt Lindsay was supposed to be getting. I suppose now that I read the books from the perspective of adulthood, the colt Chalice took his place, with his more immediate attraction of being Moonstone's son, and therefore being more tied in to events in previous books.
I have to say that none of this ever discouraged me from enjoying the books. I mentally filed it away as odd, and then got right back on with the story.
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The Punchbowl Series
No Mistaking Corker
Black Hunting Whip
Spirit of Punchbowl Farm
Fire in the Punchbowl
The Wild One
More on Monica Edwards
Everything you ever wanted to know on Monica Edwards and her books: John Allsup's site