Vintage kids’ books are one of my favourite things to read in winter, and I was completely tempted by the beautiful new cover of The Swish of the Curtain, which was originally published in 1941. It’s absolutely delightful and I’m really glad that a new generation gets to discover it!
Book: The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided by NetGalley for fair review. All opinions my own.
This will probably be quite a short review, because the thing about this book is that it’s the acting equivalent of Ballet Shoes. If you like that style of warm, cozy children’s fiction, then you will love this. Ballet Shoes is one of my favourites, so it really wasn’t surprising that this was a hit for me! There’s a sort of feel to early 20th century children’s books that is so appealing to me – the kids are innocent, plucky, innovative and creative, and they feel so much more intelligent and capable than a lot of children’s protagonists are today.
The Swish of the Curtain follows seven friends as they set up a successful amateur theatre company in their town – they have a determination and drive that is wonderful to read about. Seven feels like a lot of children to keep track of, but they are all really well-defined, and they become like familiar old friends very quickly. Their parents are only really loosely involved in their lives, and they have a guardian angel in the form of the local bishop, whose scenes were a delight. Obviously it is quite old-fashioned (I laughed at the explanation of ‘old money’ in the front of the book), but it’s that kind of lovely, rose-tinted middle-class interwar England that is just delightful to read about. I’m surprised this hasn’t been more recently adapted for TV, as it would make a lovely Sunday teatime show.
As someone who’s done quite a lot of amateur dramatics, I loved seeing the way the children used their various talents – they weren’t all just great actors! I recognised a lot of the fun of the backstage preparations for a show (I was very amused by Sandra’s stage manager role and her insistence on keeping everything tidy backstage). I don’t think you need to be an actor to love this book, but it added a lot of joy for me. I’m keen to read the continuation of the story in the sequels, and will definitely be buying a hard copy of this to reread when I need something comforting. Five out of five cats!