Bagthorpes Abroad

by Helen Cresswell

Cover image

Series: Bagthorpe Saga #5
Publisher: Hodder
Copyright: 1984
Printing: 2001
ISBN: 0-340-71654-1
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 215

Buy at Powell's Books

This installment of the ongoing Bagthorpe saga is generally readable without reading the previous books. There aren't a lot of strong ties back to previous events, and the characters are all re-introduced. You might miss some of the nuance, though.

After Bagthorpes V. the World, the standard setting of the Bagthorpes at home was getting a bit old and many of the tropes seemed a bit overused. The family needed a change of scenery and some new challenges, and Cresswell wisely obliged. Mr. Bagthorpe, in search of a genuine haunted house for research purposes, has decided to take them all on a vacation Abroad. Off to mysterious lands full of strange people who speak incomprehensible languages and pursue mysterious customs.

Wales, in other words.

In addition to contributing to the long tradition in British fiction of making fun of Wales (although this is a very two-sided affair; Wales makes as much fun of the Bagthorpes), the change of scenery manages to liven up many of the old tropes. The plot still follows the usual form, complete with Daisy running amok, accidents piling on top of each other, Mr. Bagthorpe making everything worse for himself, and then finally spectacular incidents resulting in significant property damage followed by extensive finger-pointing. Still, partly because it had been a little bit since I'd read the previous book but more because of the different background, the jokes were funnier again.

As usual, the writing is readable, witty, and very approachable for younger readers. Reintroduction of all the characters and their relationships was fairly smooth and only a little annoying to the regular reader. And Grandfather gets a more central role in this one, something I was delighted to see. His understated attitude is a much-needed counterpoint to the manic nature of the rest of the family; Jack can't always carry that role by himself.

Humor is always subjective, but this series is one of the most reliable for me. It's great light reading, even as an adult, when I'm between heavy books or just want something simple to escape into for a bit. Recommended, even the fifth book of basically the same plot structure.

One warning: This is only half of the Bagthorpe's adventure in Wales. Adults who are reading for the humor more than the plot line may not mind, but I remember being quite glad to have the next book immediately on-hand after finishing this one.

Followed by Bagthorpes Haunted.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-09-09

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