Under a Solitary Tree: Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine Club – A Reconsideration

It’s not that long ago that I finished a series of blogs about Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine Club books, a staple feature of my childhood and that of my generation. With a handful of exceptions, I was using later editions of the books, editions that had been heavily edited to make them ‘less middle-class’, ‘more relevant to modern children’ and, perhaps more pertinently, short enough to fit the standard length of the cheap and successful Armada paperbacks. Several books lost close upon 100 pages of content which, by most accounts, was done in a most unsympathetic manner.

After I’d finished the blog series, which came some time after writing the posts themselves, I made an impulse purchase of the Girls Gone By imprint of Mystery at Witchend. The GGB series are immaculate paperbacks that use only the First Edition text, reproductions of the original dustjackets as covers and include not only the original illustrations but those applied to later editions.

Mystery at Witchend was a revelation. There was so much more detail, more depth, and I remembered each of the illustrations immediately, from the copy my parents bought me so many years ago. It wasn’t, quite, a completely different book, but it demonstrated just how feeble was the version I’d read and blogged.

The problem with the GGB editions is that they’re expensive enough to begin with, and especially so for the earlier, out-of-print books, which are damnably costly. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to upgrade to GGB editions for nearly three-quarters of the series. These are unfailingly better books, and in so many ways the comments and criticisms I made of their shorter versions are shown to be unfair once I have access to the book as written.

Once I have the full set, I intend to revise the entire blog series, so apologies in advance to those who weren’t interested to begin with and who don’t want to go through all that a second time. I’ll be a bit more specific about the differences when each book comes under the spotlight in turn, but I do have to go on record as soon as possible over one major accusation I made towards the end of the series.

I was very critical of Treasure at Amorys for bottling out over the relationship between the Warrenders, Jon and Penny, which I remembered as having been brought to the same recognition and declaration of love as David Morton and Peter Sterling in the previous book. I remembered it as such, but the edition I read bore that out in no respect. Now I know my memories were right, and my accusations wrong, because the Armada edition I read edits out every single instance of the growing realisation in both Penny but mostly Jon of what the other means to them. Even the closing paragraph, in which Mary Morton sighs heavily over how she and her twin have got to deal with another love affair was edited out.

So I owe the memory of Malcolm Saville a more accurate tribute, once I can read the complete Girls Gone By set. Six books to go. Two, at least, look like being bloody difficult to find, so you may not have to go through this again for a while. But we’ll see.

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