The School Knight-Errant by Sibyl B Owsley


This, published in 1933, started off seeming like one of those books which poke gentle fun at their own genre.  Vivian, a boarding school pupil and Guide, was an avid reader of schoolgirl magazines, always convinced that the gardener’s boy is a duke in disguise and that two innocent people having a chat are plotting dastardly deeds.  I thought it was all going to be a series of adventures which weren’t adventures, but then, unusually for a Girls’ Own or Boys’ Own book, we went off into the story of Betty, one of the school maids – not a sycophantic cipher, but the daughter of an intelligent, hard-working skilled craftsman who was out of work due to the effects of the Depression.  Betty, also a Guide, and Vivian became friends, and no-one seemed to find that odd.

There was then an admittedly rather far-fetched plot in which Betty’s sister bought a second-hand book which turned out to be worth a fortune and saved the family’s bacon, and then a slightly less far-fetched plot in which Vivian, after wandering off from a Guide camp in search of a Scout camp involving one of Betty’s brothers, had her bike damaged by horses and then came across an invalid girl who wanted to be a “Post Guide” – I never knew that you could be a Guide or Scout by post if you couldn’t actually join a company, but what a nice idea.

So it was all rather an odd mix of genres – the valuable book plot was more than worthy of one of Angela Brazil’s less likely novels, but the bringing into a GO story of Betty’s family, and the showing of how the Depression pushed a lot of hard-working people into poverty, and how Betty and her family were no different to the boarding school girls and their families, just born under an unluckier financial star, was unusual and very laudable.  An interesting book.