No Boats on Bannermere

Geoffrey Trease

Hey, look, it's a juniors book set in the Lake District. And there's at least one boat! We know where this story is going, don't we? Children enjoying a camping vacation on a lake, having exciting adventures, and enjoying perfect freedom from parental control? Surprise! No Boats on Bannermere is an entirely different kind of book.

Let's start with the beginning, Bill, Susan and their mother aren't happily on vacation, but living in a rented flat in London. The apartment isn"t impressive, and the children constantly have to worry that they're making too much noise, which could annoy the landlady. With housing being scarce, this is a real concern. Cousin Fay's bequest of Beckfoot* allows them to escape from the confines of the city and move to the country.

Even though we're now in the country, this isn't one of those childhood vacation stories. Bill and Sue start school and make new friends. They discover a mystery, but it's a pretty tame one. There are no Enid Blyton- or Nancy Drew-type spies, thieves, or mysterious strangers, just a rich man who wants to lord it over others. (Trease's basic socialistic tendencies come through loud and clear in this book) Solving the mystery gets Bill, Sue, Tim and Penny a few hundred pounds; useful to be sure, but not life-changing.

The children all have career goals in mind. Bill, our narrator, is interested in being a writer, but will settle for being a schoolmaster – he realizes that writing is a difficult career. (I love the bit where he talks about 'not looking like a writer' – I'm sure that this is Trease's voice coming through!) We don't hear too much about Susan's career goals, but she takes the lead on serving teas to hikers. Tim wants to be a police detective – a sensible career rather than the more romantic 'private eye.' Penny is the most interesting in this area. Her goal is to act, but a severe injury means that she has a permanent limp – making a career on the stage somewhat problematic. She works hard to keep up with the other children and allows no pampering of her disability. I kept wondering where the next books would take the children. Do we see them growing up, or, like the Swallows, Amazons, and D's, do they stay in a perpetual imaginary world?

* "Beckfoot" is not a unique name for a house in the Lake District; this is not the Blackett's "Beckfoot".

Reviewed by Pam Adams, April, 2011

This article is ©2011 by Pam Adams, and posted on All Things Ransome with permission.

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