Edwards, Monica

Monica Le Doux Edwards (nee Newton) was born on 8 November 1912 in Belper, Derbyshire.  One of four children, her father, the Revd Harry Newton was a vicar.  In 1927 he accepted the living of Rye Harbour, in East Sussex.  Although her brothers and sister were educated (her brothers with a tutor and her sister at boarding school), Monica initially was not, and she took full advantage of her school-free state; roaming the marsh and befriending the fishermen and villagers, who later became part of her Romney Marsh series

In 1933, Monica married Bill Edwards, and in 1947 they and their two children, Shelley and Sean, moved to Pitlands Farm in Surrey, which Monica bought at an auction when her attention was perhaps more on the book she was reading at the time.  The house was neglected:  “There’s no water, no light, no drains, no bathroom, and the Other Place is at the bottom of the garden,” and the land was not a great deal better.   In The Unsought Farm Monica describes how they slowly reclaimed the land and made the house habitable.  The farm, re-named Punchbowl Farm, was to provide the inspiration for the Punchbowl Farm series.  Unlike a lot of Monica fans, I far prefer the Punchbowl Farm series, probably because they were closer to my own experience.  Like Lindsey, I wanted things to remain the same.  I was devastated when my grandparents sold off for housing the small field and stables where we had played for days on end as children; though I could see why they felt they had to.  

The books form two series:  the Punchbowl Farm series about the Thornton family and Romney Marsh, featuring Tamzin and her friends Rissa, Roger and Meryon. The books are not really pony books:  they don’t follow the usual pony book format focusing on looking after the pony, schooling it and going in for gymkhanas.  The ponies are often integral to the story:  Cascade, for example, performs an heroic role in Storm Ahead, and the ponies are used to help patrol the boundaries in No Entry, but the real interest of the stories is in how the characters react to the events going on around them.  Monica Edwards never patronised her characters or her readers; she understood the tensions that happen in a family, and between friends, and set them brilliantly in the settings she obviously loved.

The majority of Monica Edwards’ books were published by Collins.  Many of the Punchbowl Farm and Romney Marsh books were also published by Armada, who abridged some (but not all) of the stories.  Storm Ahead and The White Riders were published by Puffin.  There were also Children’s Book Club editions of some titles, and John Goodchild published (revised) editions.  On a more hopeful note for those of us who have yet to find all the books, Girls Gone By are reprinting all of Monica Edwards’ works.  I stock these, as well of course as the original books and paperbacks.

Finding the books:  
Although Girls Gone By are re-publishing, even these titles go out of print, so it’s best to pounce immediately they’re published.  Once out of print, these reprints become expensive.  Collecting Monica Edwards is alas a pricey business, and it’s impossible to be precise about how hard or otherwise a title is to find.  I’ve attempted a fairly broad-brush categorisation.  

Very hard to find:  A Wind is Blowing, The Wild One, The Nightbird, Storm Ahead  (though paperbacks are cheaper). Dolphin SummerHard to find:  (as original hardbacks)  Fire in the Punchbowl, White Riders, The Midnight Horse, Operation Seabird, Spirit of the Punchbowl, Punchbowl Midnight, Cargo of Horses, Punchbowl Harvest, Joan Goes Farming, Strangers to the Marsh, Under the Rose, The Hoodwinkers, The Outsider, The Cownappers, No Going Back
Reasonable:  the John Goodchild hardback reprints; The Nightbird - Armada pb, Dolphin Summer - Armada pb, Summer of the Great Secret (Collins Seagull), Black Hunting Whip in its various hardback versions; Hidden in a Dream (Evergreen); The Wanderer; No Entry, Frenchman’s Secret, The Outsider (other hb versions),  Killer Dog
Easy to find:  most of the Armada paperbacks are reasonably easy to find, though they’re not now as cheap as they once were.  The GGB paperbacks are easy to find in the year or two after publication, but as soon as they go out of print, prices rise.   CP and Collins Seagull editions of Wish for a Pony.  Collins Seagull No Mistaking Corker.  Rennie Goes Riding (apart from the original hardback) .

LinksFor a really good in-depth look at Monica Edwards and her books, you cannot do better than try The Monica Edwards Website.There is a new Monica Edwards Society (as of August 2007) - the Monica Edwards Appreciation Society (MEAS).  You can find it here:  use the Society link at the top of the page.  It will publish a twice yearly journal:  The Martello, and organise events.From The Punchbowl was another society devoted to Monica Edwards, though I think it must have folded as the links I have no longer work.  
The Wikipedia entry on Monica Edwards has an interesting critique of her works, as does the Australian Collecting Books and Magazines site.
Girls Gone By are republishing Monica Edwards’ works.