This book sees Toby, the heroine of The School on the Moor, working as a Land Girl (well, sort of) in 1940. There are surprisingly few books showing Girls’ Own heroines doing war work, so this one is very welcome. Toby isn’t with the official Land Army, but is effectively doing the work of a land girl on a farm owned by Charity Sheringham, who features in some of DFB’s other books. There’s quite a bit of information about farming, but not so much as to be boring, and love interests for both girls, so that all works rather well.
However … in keeping with the the Raiders of the Lost Ark storyline in The School on the Moor, Toby soon finds that a disease killing local farm animals, and which nearly kills her dog – which, incidentally, is referred to as “Master Algy” by Charity’s maid – is being caused by the local vet, who is in the pay of the Nazis and is injecting all the animals with poison. Right. And the only person who is able to save the animals is a gipsy horse doctor. It turns out that, whaddaya know, the gipsy horse doctor is none other than Toby’s admirer in disguise, trying to catch the baddie vet out.
Meanwhile, Charity’s beau has gone missing during the Dunkirk evacuation, but he returns in a German plane, which he was able to nick as its pilots had left it unattended whilst they went to the pub. As you do.
There’s a dramatic conclusion in which Toby’s admirer is beaten up by the baddie vet, leaving Toby to do the catching and apprehending … and a very sad sub-plot which sees the vet’s disabled niece die. Both couples get engaged, and presumably live happily ever after – the two men being exempt from further military/police service due to the importance of their farming.
I think it’s important to remember that this was intended as a children’s book. A lot of children’s books written during both world wars feature spy stories and derring-do, and young readers would probably find a book which was just about farming and romance rather boring. So, although it seemed rather OTT, it was probably right for the audience for which it was written – and the actual writing was very good. Now I just need to get hold of the middle book in the “Toby” trilogy!