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Goodbye Gemma Reviews
I'm giving the entire series four stars for nostalgia, though it certainly has its own charm. Alice's sister Rowena is a British TV star who's offered a Hollywood contract and sends her daughter Gemma - previously a famous child star, now at an awkward in-between age - to live with her sister Alice's family in provincial Headstone. This is a Noel Streatfield novel, so her sister's children are all talented. There's Ann, who's smart and has a beautiful voice; Lydie, who's disconcertingly like Posy in Ballet Shoes; and Robin, who has perfect pitch and can compose, or what his musical father refers to as "improvising" existing tunes. But there's more. Gemma isn't a child prodigy hoping to become famous. She's already famous, and she hates not working, and she hates being away from her mother. Philip, the children's father, was the first violinist of a renowned classical orchestra, but he developed arthritis in his hands and was forced to retire early. The discussions Gemma and Philip have about pride and identity are fantastic. Philip and Alice are both grounded, warm parents, but it's Philip's relationship with Gemma (who's not his biological niece) that jumps off the page.Gemma's storylines in general - not wanting to be recognized but not content to be a nobody - are pretty great. It's interesting that she's able to go to school without being recognized, but since Streatfield's writing a time she's familiar with, I have to assume celebrity gossip was less pervasive at the time. (I'd guess the story is set in the 1950s, given that Ann appears on a TV show at one point.)Ann has great moments, too: when she asks Gemma if she should be starting to mess with hair and makeup and when she talks to Audrey about disappointing her father, who wants her to go to the Royal College of Music. In fact, most of the series' strongest moments come through interrelation with adults. There's Rowena, for years the most stable adult presence in Gemma's life, against whom Gemma begins to measure her maturity. In Goodbye Gemma, the dean of the local university asks Gemma's headmistress for the loan of an actress who can play Juliet, since no one in his theater department is up to the task, and the students stage a protest. The dean arranges an acting demonstration by the two actresses so the process is democratic - it's great stuff. Lydie's much less compelling: she is Posy, down to the flagrant disregard for anything but dancing and the audition with Manoff, in this book called Monsieur de Clara and ostensibly a completely different character. But this is Gemma's series, and she makes up for any deficiencies. I was sad to see her get on that train and leave her life with the Robinsons behind. I can't imagine her life with her mother (spontaneous fur coat shopping aside) will be as lively as her life with the Robinsons, though I'm sure she becomes a star.This is a Noel Streatfield book, after all.
The series was written as contemporary children’s fiction in the 1960s. The Robinsons are a likeable family who live in a small town within easy train distance from London. In this book, fourth and last of the series, Gemma, whose mother has been working in the United States, is very much part of the family despite being rather better-off financially, but all are aware that things are likely to change as they begin to grow up...While ‘Goodbye Gemma’ (more recently published as 'Gemma in Love') could be read as a standalone, ties up a lot of ends and provides a good finale to the sequel. It’s inevitably slightly dated, but the family interactions are realistic, the people surprisingly three-dimensional and one or two scenes quite moving. While a child of around ten or eleven might well enjoy the first couple of books in the series, this one is more thoughtful and perhaps appropriate for young teenagers; not that many of today’s teens would be interested in such a family-oriented series, but eclectic readers or those who prefer classic and ‘wholesome’ stories might well like it.All in all, I enjoyed reading this very much.
The four Gemma books are an easy read, and effectively tell one longer story about Gemma's stay with the Robinsons. I know we're not supposed to like the Gemma books, because they are all modern; and my copies had the photo cover and the Betty Maxey illustrations, so they even looked a bit rubbishy. But I always liked the Robinson family, who lived in a fairly ordinary house like ours, and went to a comprehensive school like we did. Obviously we weren't as fabulously talented as the Robinsons and we didn't have a former child film star cousin living with us; but this clearly isn't the remote world of 1930s London, and what the Robinsons do seemed to be possible in the world I lived in.So: if you are a fan of NS, the Gemma books are a bit different, but as usual she captures sibling bickering and family life exceptionally well and, as ever, it's an enjoyable ride.
Gemma is thrilled to be chosen to play Juliet in the local university production. And once she meets her Romeo, she falls head over heels, just like Juliet. But then her mother announces she's returning, and expects Gemma to join her in London. Can Gemma convince her to let her stay until after the play is performed?At the same time, Lydia is unhappy when her dancing teacher goes away for several months. Her escapade that follows is very reminiscent of Posy's in Ballet Shoes. And Ann is becoming a reluctant pop star, something Robin would die for.Some continuity errors in the last two books of the series. Lydia claims never to have worn her tutu, but she did, in the Dog-for-the-Blind concert.
I have always loved Noel Streatfeild's books and as a child I got my library to ILL them for me or hunted through second hand book stores to find all of them. She tells the perfect "girls stories". I was always able to find one character in each book that was my favorite. They definitely stand up to re-reads.
Old childhood favourite, revisited this past week....I loved the Gemma books as a kid - my goodness, I must have read them dozens of times!Unfortunately, I haven't been able to catch the girls' attention with them. Too bad....
Always was my least favourite of the series, but I figured I might as well read them all while I was at it. Gemma annoyed me somewhat in this, but Ann made a lot of sense. The whole 'in love' thing was a bit trite, but for young adult series like these I suppose it's expected.