Due North: Susannah of the Mounties, by Muriel Denison (1936)

The fish out of water or lonely orphan being sent to stay with strange relatives is a common trope of children’s literature. Here Denison gives it her own spin. Susannah is not an orphan, but is merely being sent to stay with a relative while her parents are posted elsewhere in the British empire of the 1890s. It must have been a common occurrence for the children of middle ranking administrators of the British empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this case the relative with whom Susannah is sent to stay (with virtually no notice whatsoever) is a bachelor army officer posted in the wilds of Canada. She is not welcome.

However, despite a sad habit of disobeying the rules, Susannah soon wins the hearts of minds of those around her, including those of both her uncle and the fort commander. There is also a sub plot or romance between ‘Monty’ a young man Susannah meets on the train to Regina where he joins the Mounties, and Vicky the commander’s daughter. Since he’s only a trooper things don’t look too great for them, but in traditional style he turns out to be an aristocrat, so it’s OK.

Apparently the book was made into a film starring Shirley Temple, but the storyline seems to have been drastically if the synopsis is anything to go by.

I first read this when I was eight or nine, I think, and I enjoyed it then. I never realised Denison wrote a number of sequels. I would have enjoyed reading them also. While apparently no longer in print, Susannah is readily available second hand. My paternal grandfather did not approve of Susannah. I recall that he gave me a copy of Psmith in the City to wean me away from such rubbish. I won’t pretend it’s on a par with Wodehouse, but children should still find it entertaining.


6 responses to “Due North: Susannah of the Mounties, by Muriel Denison (1936)

  1. I remember the story was serialised on BBC radio Children’s Hour when I was a kid.Maybe around 1950.

  2. My first copy (paperback) was given to me around 1950. It’s now in a bag in pieces. Currently I’ve got 3 of the 4 (still looking for the school one).

    I love the interweaving of stories with true history. One of my great-great-great uncles crops up in the Yukon one: he’s the bishop with the beard.

  3. Well, I realise I’m almost 3 years late to the party here… I LOVED all the Susannah books when I was young. My mother also read them when she was little, and so read them to me. I basically learned to read uber-young because I wanted to know what happened next and couldn’t wait for my mum to read to me. Sigh… the memories! Thanks 🙂

    • Actually, this one is the only one of the Susannah books that I have read. I didn’t realise when I was young that there were more (although at that time they were probably out of print), but I must make an effort to get hold of some of the others.

  4. Chris Garland

    I read all 4 Susannah books as a child & it’s fun to re-read them now, although it makes a reader cringe the way the Native Canadians are depicted in the books. My favorite book of the series is “Susannah of the Yukon,” in which Sue not only finds a gold mine but wins a dog sled race! The weakest book of the 4 is “Susannah at Boarding School”-dull. (All 4 books can be found on Bookfinder.com).But Sue rallies in the 4th & final volume-“Susannah Rides Aagain”-hate that title! She has a lot of fun in Quebec and becomes a heroine in the process,standing up to the bad guys who are
    going to chop down Aunt Sassie’s pine trees!

  5. Judith Levine

    I loved Susannah, too, and devoured the books, at least the first two, over and over. I was 9 or maybe 10, and remember loving the Mountie. Ithink I read 3, bot can’t recall anything about the 3rd one. Didn’t know about the movie, it sounds like a travesty.

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