Bagthorpes V. the World

by Helen Cresswell

Cover image

Series: Bagthorpe Saga #4
Publisher: Hodder
Copyright: 1979
Printing: 2001
ISBN: 0-340-72246-0
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 230

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This is the fourth book of the Bagthorpe children's series by Helen Cresswell. While you don't have to read the prior books first, you'll miss various references to previous events.

An overdraft statement sends Mr. Bagthorpe into a full-out obsession with Survival and Self-Sufficiency. At the same time, their great aunt arrives for a visit, subjecting them to both her dog and her obsession with Time. It doesn't exist, you see, and she's determined to fool it at every opportunity so that it never finds her to demonstrate its existence.

This is, alas, the weakest of the first four Bagthorpe books. It's hard to put a finger on why, but part of the trouble is that Cresswell's recapping of the personalities, motivations, and quirks of the various characters feel a bit more repetitive, as do some of the events. There's still enough new happening to make the book enjoyable and well worth reading, but some tropes (like the catastrophic party) get reused a bit too often. The Bagthorpes really need a change of scenery (some that they will get in the next book).

Daisy's phase (funerals) is, unfortunately, also not as interesting as some previous ones, particularly the brilliant Reconciling the Seemingly Disparate. Grandpa does show up a little more in this book, at last, but there too one must wait for the next book for Grandpa to really develop as a character. The best part of the book, I think, is the goat and the burgeoning goat and Daisy partnership, which also plays a significant role in later books.

Incidentally, I'm embarassed to admit that, after having read all these books multiple times as a child, having previously read the first three, and knowing the definition of the term, it was only in this book that I finally connected Aunt Celia throwing pots with something other than pottery shards all over the floor. I had such a strong image as a child of Aunt Celia writing a few lines of poetry, throwing a pot against the wall, and then writing more lines of poetry about the broken pot that the right definition never even occurred to me. The correct reading certainly makes more sense, but it's going to take me a while to dig out my childhood association between mad poets and shattered pottery.

Followed by Bagthorpes Abroad.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-04-26

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