Gwendoline Courtney
Thanks to: Jane Webster and Miranda Wenaus
Page finalised 9th October, 2010.


Jane Webster from New Zealand writes about her favourite book.

At School with the Stanhopes is, I think, one of Gwendoline Courtney's best books. All of her books have elements of humour but this one is laugh out loud (even in company) sort of funny.

But better than just being a funny story about a village school run by two sisters (mainly to educate their three younger sisters), it is a really lovely account of a girl (Rosalind) learning to live with her much older brother (Richard) who is almost a stranger - and him learning about her! There is a marvellous cast of supporting characters: Henry, the house-keeper-cum-gardener-cum-general- actotum who 'doesn't hold with girls'; the Irrepressibles (the younger Stanhope sisters) who take Henry in hand; David, the sick friend to both Richard and Rosalind - all marvellously real. There's drama when one of the girls is attacked by a drunk and Henry and Jackie (a school fellow from the Stanhope's school) come to the rescue. And because Henry is injured, Rosalind must run the household and eventually manages to impress her brother with this ability. (A skill taught at the Stanhope's school, of course.) There's dress-ups when historian Richard inspires in the school an interest in the eighteenth century and the girls put on a play. There's sport at the school in the form of fencing, taught by Richard, who finds in his sister a useful sparring partner. And finally there is a duel (caused by the Irrepressibles living up to their name), causing the breach in the school to be healed.

This book has all the classic girl's story elements in a warm, funny package that makes me think that this book is Gwendoline Courtney's bestwork.

Gwendoline Courtney's works (in order of my preference):

At School with the Stanhopes

Sally's Family

The Girls of Friar's Rise

Stepmother (also published as Elizabeth of the Garret Theatre)

Long Barrow (also published as The Farm on the Downs)

Coronet for Cathie (most sought after title)

The Grenville Garrison

The Chiltons

Wild Lorings - Detectives

Wild Lorings at School

Well Done Denehurst

Denehurst Secret Service

Torley Grange

Miranda Wenaus writes about her favourite title.

SALLY'S FAMILY by Gwendoline Courtney

Gwendoline Courtney has been recommended to me by so many people whose opinion I value that I felt I had to try one of her books. This year my mother and I were lucky enough to be sent some of hers by a friend in New Zealand. After looking the books over, I decided to read SALLY'S FAMILY first. It was wonderful; I read it every moment I could. Our edition is a 1962 reprint by Collins in the Seagull Library Edition. It was, however, originally published by Oxford University Press in 1946 with illustrations by T.R. Freeman.

When I was little I loved making small houses out of chairs and rugs and would spend hours making everything inside as perfect as possible, so the central idea of SALLY'S FAMILY really appealed to me. Sally Hamilton has to make a home for her brothers and sisters out of a rundown and dirty old house in the English countryside with almost no furniture or money. SALLY'S FAMILY is about how she succeeds to make the house a comfortable home, and reunites her five brothers and sisters (who have been split up during the war) so that they feel like a real family.

Gwendoline Courtney has some very realistic characters. No-one, except for Sally, jumps to work with a will unless asked specifically to do something. In fact, it takes a blow-up from Sally for the younger children to realize how selfish they have been, but then they take their first steps to become more like a family and do some teamwork.

It was fascinating to have the characters of the five children unfolding before my eyes. I kept discovering new things about them. For example, at first I thought Guy was just a slightly lazy, rather boring, easy-going boy. He proves, however, to be a very hardworking, steady and intelligent leader. Kitty, too, in spite of being such a spoilt girl at the beginning of the book turns into a really nice person; she and Sally are my favourite characters. I must say, though, that I did not like the main adult character, Charles, so much. He is far too old for Sally, and he always seems to know everybody's secret, which annoyed me no end! Tom, Kitty's romantic interest, is better, though rather bossy.

Jane, nicknamed Pookum by the others, is the youngest. She is very funnily portrayed. I laughed over the description of Pookum telling her new teacher exactly what she thought of her lessons! Lucy I could especially sympathize with for being such a bookworm, and I liked her steady, determined character. Yes, all the Hamiltons have a stubborn streak in them, and Gwendoline Courtney shows how they learn to use their grit to the family's advantage.

My favourite chapter is the one entitled "Christmas". Courtney really manages to get the feeling of Christmas into it, and I loved the descriptions of the presents the family make from scratch. I did find it a bit odd though that the family doesn't go to church; I should have thought it would be the normal thing in those times. I also found it interesting to learn more about rationing and coupons. I'm sure I now know a little more about it than most people my age. The author makes you understand how important growing your own vegetables was in those days, and how difficult it was to purchase fabric and clothes.

All in all, I adored SALLY'S FAMILY, and it has been added to the list of my favourite books. I'm anxious to read more by Gwendoline Courtney.

I'd love to hear:

What were your favourite characters and scenes?

This GC has more "romance" than LB for instance.

Do you think GC handles it well?

What age girls do you imagine would have been the orginal audience?

Any comments very welcome. Miranda Wenaus

Any problems or questions? Email John at

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