Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bagthorpes Abroad: Fun Revisited

Bagthorpes AbroadI remember laughing at the Bagthorpe family stories decades ago, but somehow the latest batch of books got left on my TBR piles. They've moved with me a few times, and just turned up in the stack I'm working through on this summer drive. I'm glad I found them again; I just finished Helen Cresswell's The Bagthorpes Abroad and I laughed my way through it.
 BarockSchloss CC license
The Bagthorpes are a kind of English version of The Wimpy Kid family, where almost everyone is unpleasant or downright mean. Cresswell makes no bones about this, pointing out when the entire family is unsympathetic because they only worry about their own problems. She does give us Jack, the ordinary son, as a touchstone, and then flatters the reader a bit by pointing out that Jack, like most everyone, has common decency and kindness. Or the reader can choose to identify with the self-described brilliant members of the family and become complicit in their egotism.

I'm not sure how well the books works as an introduction to the series; although it's been years since I read the earlier books, I remember the family dynamics and had the correct expectations for the back-stabbing nature of the group.  The first chapter shows us the children huddling together to doctor their school reports, showing both the unethical attitudes but also that they can function as a family in their own special way. I'm glad I have two more to go; it will be a treat to spend an extended time with this unneighborly family.

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