Jolly good fun: London Pride, by Joanna Cannan (1939)

I bought this book as a Christmas present for one of my nieces, and sad person that I am, read it before wrapping it. I had to make sure it was suitable after all. Canaan is an author who has previously passed me by, not having been into pony books as a child (she originated the genre). This is the second of two of her children’s novels so far re-issued by the wonderful Fidra Books who seem set to do for children’s books what Persephone have done for women’s books.

This is a sequel, and I hadn’t read the first book. Normally I would find the style of direct address providing catch up extremely irritating, but here it only adds to the charm. The book reads very much as if it was written by an eleven year old telling a tale to a friend, which goes to show what an accomplished writer Cannan was.

In the first book, (We met our Cousins) two London children (Antonia and John) go to the Highlands of Scotland to visit their cousins and have a whale of a time. In this book the cousins visit London, and once again we have the usual fish out of water scenario, only this time the narrator is an observer. Set the Christmas following the events of the first book, it is an entertaining adventure as the children adopt a maltreated pony, (the London Pride of the title) hiding it in the gardens in the square where Antonia and John live with their ghastly aunt and uncle, their own parents being in India. Antonia’s aunt is attempting to bring her up in a proper ladylike manner, but Antonia is more interested in her pet ferret and having adventures.

No feedback from my niece so far, but I’m sure she loved it. I did.

There is an article about Cannan on Wikipedia here.


10 responses to “Jolly good fun: London Pride, by Joanna Cannan (1939)

  1. emily pender

    dear cas,

    this comment is not about joanna cannan, but about violet needham -i don’t know if yo are aware that the wonderful Girls Gone By publishing have just published a really obscure book from the Stormy Petrel series by VN -the latest one is called Richard and the Golden Horseshoe -it has a lovely cover which is a copy of the old dustjacket.
    and as you may know already, they have republished all the VN’s in that series up to that one.
    I will look out for Violet Canan -did you ever try monica edwards? another highly recommended children’s author. the best one is probably Storm Ahead, but the others are good too. and if you like a moral dilemna in children’s fiction, you really have to try Antonia Forest -her characters have similar reading tastes to yours –
    your fellow stormy petrel follower from the antipodes-emily

  2. Hello Emily,

    Great to hear there’s another Violet Needham out. I will have to invest in it. 🙂 I haven’t come across Monica Edwards that I recall so I will be on the lookout for her. Several other people have mentioned Antonia Forest as being worth a look, so I really must have a look at her work. I don’t know why I never came across her as a child.

  3. emily pender

    dear cas,

    antonia forest IMO is one of the best British children’s writers -like many good english writers i think she was half Russian -.but warning: her books are completely addictive, even more so than V Needham. you should start with the first one, which is Autumn Term.This is the first story about the Marlow family at boarding school in the nineteen forties. its the story of two twin sisters, who are the last in a family that have done really well at school…their sisters are captain of the school, head of games, winner of the mrs joyful prize for rafia work etc etct and at first they fail everything…. Girls Gone By are also republishing Antonia Forest, i believe…some of the first editions are almost as hard to get as VN.
    ps Richard and the Golden Horse shoe is not a very strong story, but its interesting to see what happens with the stormy petrel. she still conveys this wonderful sense of languid aristocratic
    endeavour….the main character gets into a terrible spat when he makes a mistake (twice) playing a beethoven violin and piano sonata after supper…oh for a life in which this is your main

  4. hello, Emily

    I will definitely have to look out Antonia Forest then. Talking of the mrs joyful prize for rafia, have you seen the marvellous molesworth hogwarts pastiche? It’s here if you haven’t.

  5. emily pender

    dear cas,

    i can’t pick up this link. could you write it for me,
    please? i would love to read it

  6. Oh sorry – made a mistake with the html! Here it is:

  7. emily pender

    dear cas,

    this is wonderful and very funny. am passing it on.
    thank you.

    “fair play, st trinians! use a clean needle!”

  8. emily pender

    dear cas,

    have you read Autumn Term yet? or Storm Ahead?

    “carthago delenda est”….


  9. Hello Emily,

    No, I haven’t come across either of these yet. Are they good?

  10. emily pender

    no, they are not good, they are two of the best childrens books ever…if you like violet needham, i am pretty sure you would like antonia forest, her books are full of ethical dilemnas. in the first one, Autumn Term , there’s a wonderful character who is the headmistress niece and the others are all saying how awful this must be and how they find it hard having to be specially well behaved around their sister who’s head girl, so she won’t be seen to be favouring them and Tim (the niece) says how she wants to take as much advantage of her position as possible….there is also a treacherous and very believable sports captain….Autumn Term is the first in the series about the Marlow family….
    i would think perhaps some of the best school stories ever.

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