Sunday, 26 April 2009

Retirement Rescue - The Swish of the Curtain

The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown
- 1941
Pages – 308
In print? – Yes. Longwater books reprinted this in 2006
THEN – 4.5 stars out of 5
NOW – 4 stars out of 5

Jacket description:
When seven bored children discover an abandoned chapel in their home town, they decide to renovate it and to form the Blue Door Theratre Company. The talented and resourceful group soon discover that they are serious about their theatrical ambitions, but will their parents stand in their way?
This classic children’s novel remains a timeless inspiration to any young reader with a passion for the performing arts.

Seven children (all of whom have some special talent or other – singing, composing, dressmaking etc) set up their own theatre company. Yes, it’s more than a little unbelievable, but it’s also the sort of thing every child would have enjoyed. It’s also set in a time when such a thing is less hard to believe. The Swish of the Curtain is very quaint, old-fashioned but still charming and holds its appeal for children. The kids, especially nine-year-old Maddy, are some of the best characterised I’ve ever read, having an old-fashioned innocence along with extra maturity, especially when dealing with their nemesis Mrs Potter-Smith, head of the Women’s Institute. Mrs Potter-Smith (or ‘Smither-Pot,’ as Maddy refers to her) is constantly out to undermine the children’s plays because people enjoy them more than hers. Some critics have said that they talk as if they’re older than they should be, but Pamela Brown was only 14 herself when she wrote this. The Swish of the Curtain is definitely a children’s classic, and will appeal to many children today.

‘An answering thud was heard offstage, and Mrs Potter-Smith puffed on, wearing a Greek tunic, with primroses in her hair which she had “let down” for the occasion. She flung out her plump arms towards the audience, declaiming, “I am the Spirit of Spring!”
The ginger girl stuffed her hankie in her mouth, and Maddy whispered confidentially to Sandra, “Are we supposed to laugh?”’ – page 10-11

'“Personally, when I was eight, a really juicy murder appealed to me as much as anything,” Maddy told them.' – page 136


  1. Oh, wow, I remember reading this about a million years ago! Great choice for an Operation Retirement Rescue post. :)

  2. This does sound charming! I like the theatre setting. Thanks for mentioning this read.

  3. I'm glad you read it too, Chicklish! Such fun memories, I'm having fun with Retirement Rescue!

    vvb32 - Charming is a good word to describe it. I love a good old-fashioned read now and again :)

  4. I first read this book when I was eight - and love it still. You are right about the characterisation of the children being exceptionally good, particularly considering Brown was so young when she wrote it. I even named my daughter Madeleine after little Maddy Fayne!

  5. I first read this book when I was ten and absolutely loved it. My favourite book by far.