Two Joans at the Abbey by E.J. Oxenham

 Two Joans at the Abbey cover

I bought Two Joans at the Abbey by E.J. Oxenham a while ago under the impression that it was a boarding school setting, I enjoy those quaint 1920s- 50s books written by authors such as Angela Brazil and Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. Anyway it turned out that it wasn’t. I was of course attracted to the name Joan! It was first published in 1945.

In no time flat my head was fair jangling with the use of so many names of characters with names beginning with ‘J’. I cannot imagine why the author thought this was a good idea. Joan and Janice were great friends when they were at school, now they have children of their own and they have each given their daughter the name of their best friend. So we have one child Joan who is variously called Joan, Joan-Two, Littlejan then there are Jansy, Jandy Mac, Jen, there’s a John, Jack and even the baby is called Jimmy. Thankfully the cat is called Mrs Black!

Janice and her daughter Joan (or was it the other way about?) are visiting Joan elder and oh well – you know what I mean – at the old abbey where they live. But very quickly Janice gets a telegram telling her that Aunt Mary is seriously ill, so she has to go to visit her in Scotland, leaving Joan-Two behind. The young girls become great friends but are somewhat ‘cheesed off’ that when their mothers were their age they had been able to uncover lost bits of the abbey, there’s nothing left for them to discover it seems.

Of course they do stumble across a ‘new’ old building, but in doing so put themselves in great danger. I ended up liking this quaint adventure story with all its old-fashioned charm, although the author rambles like crazy here, there and everywhere.

New to me books

A couple of weekends ago we went to a book charity sale in the Scottish Borders and inevitably I came back with quite a few more books for my ever groaning bookcases, in fact within the last three weeks I’ve managed to squeeze four more into the house!

I have to say that there were loads of modern paperbacks for sale but the books that came home with me were the type that most people would dodge. They’re all fairly old and this time they’re mainly for children. In truth a few of them I bought just for the book cover or illustrations – as good a reason as any I think you’ll agree.

Books Again

So I bought:

We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea by Arthur Ransome.

Riders and Raiders by M.E. Atkinson (the author was recommended by a friend.)

The Golden Book of Children’s Verse – this book was published by Blackie and Son, the Glasgow based publisher who was a client of Charles Rennie Mackintosh who designed Blackie’s family home Hill House in Helensburgh, but also designed a lot of the Blackie book covers, including this one.

Granny’s Wonderful Chair by Frances Browne – it’s another Blackie book.

Two Joans at the Abbey by Elsie J. Oxenham. This seems to be an adventure tale which was first published in 1945. Chosen because of the title – well why not!

Breakfast with the Nikolides by Rumer Godden. I’ve been buying her books when I see them over the years. This is one of her Indian ones.

Mortimer’s Bread Bin by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Quentin Blake.

And lastly

Just What I Like which is another Blackie publication. It’s an annual sized book and has an inscription dated 1932 and I think the illustrations are lovely – so of their time. I suspect I’m turning into a Blackie book collector. Inadvertently of course!


I was really surprised to see the evidence in this 1932 book that apostrophes were also misused back then. Bus’s indeed!

Book Illustration