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Bilgewater

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  262 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Growing up in a boys' school where her father is housemaster, Marigold is convinced of her own plainness and peculiarity. Ripe for seduction by the wrong sort of boy, Marigold suffers comically in her pilgrimage through adolescence.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published May 6th 2001 by Abacus Books (first published October 14th 1976)
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Jack London
I swear that Jane Gardam could write the instructions for using computer software and it would be the most entertaining reading of the year. Working, instead, with the daughter of a widower who is headmaster at a backwater private school for boys, Gardam creates a painful, funny, and nuanced portrait of a girl who comes of age without a single female friend and succeeds, although in the process she lives through what would otherwise be the making a blooper reel of every dance, date, and prospect ...more
Hallie
Jul 26, 2010 Hallie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hallie by: Hirondelle
This was just lovely. The wild eccentricity of most of the characters, with as Hirondelle said, a surreal edge, could have made for incredibly uncomfortable reading. But the book seemed to me to steer a very nicely balanced path between sentimentality (which was always avoided) and the kind of harsh humour that makes you feel kind of guilty for laughing (which was also avoided). I can't think of that many books that manage to do this, though I suppose I can't think of many books even remotely li ...more
Rita
1976
This Jane Gardam is brazen! She's got guts!

In this 200-page book a teenager tells her story -- she starts out age 16 and is 17 or 18 by the end. Gardam uses some slang and more informal-type sentences, I presume to appeal to the young readers she is aiming to reach [I guess].

The "I" of the book is somewhat of a social misfit but with an extremely high IQ. She goes from one uncomfortable encounter to another, but manages to survive.
Her father is head[?] of a house at a boy's boarding school,
...more
Yvonne
Just got this book back from a friend. While I don't recall many details, I do remember liking the main character quite a lot (a motherless girl circa 16 years, struggling to fit into her own skin).
Fiona
4.5 really. It would have been a 5 if it hadn't turned into a farce towards the end.

Jane Gardam is marvellous at evoking memories of the discomfort and confusion of growing up. It's not for those who were prom queen or voted most popular or who were captain of the hockey team or head girl. It's for those of us who identify with Janis Ian's song 'Seventeen'. Marigold Green is completely uncomfortable with her own self when we first meet her. Through time, she comes to realise that she maybe does
...more
Karen
I looked for this book after hearing it discussed in a BBC Podcast, and I am so glad I did. It is a lovely story of a young girl brought up in an almost exclusively male home environment, at a time in her life when she is changing from a child to a young adult. She has no feminine grace, no idea of how to behave or dress, and at school is seen as odd and sometimes stupid. One of the reasons this gentle story appeals to me is that I recognise elements of my own life: insecurities, lack of 'cool' ...more
Barbara
Nov 25, 2011 Barbara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Barbara by: Francineex
This is a wonderful book that shows the truth of adolescence - gawky, uncertain, and full of rapid emotional hairpin turns, even as it takes place in slightly surreal circumstances.
Marigold Green (nicknamed Bilgewater) is the daughter of a widowed headmaster at an English boarding school in the 60s. She's surrounded by barely functional academics, whose other-worldliness leaves her woefully unprepared to be an teenaged girl. And yet, she finds her way through, finds herself and eventually trium
...more
Dixie
Liked the style of writing and the weird story of this girl w/ her kooky father and friends. A quick, easy read. Would enjoy more books by this author I'm sure.
Sonia Gensler
Entertaining and poignant -- Gardam certainly captures the drama and angst of adolescence.
Harini Srinivasan
Lovely book, really funny in a dour way and characters that you really care about. Bilgewater is the quintessential awkward, confused 70s teenager -- bright but spotty, infuriating but likable. A little reminiscent of 'I Capture the Castle'. Bilgewater's castle is the school where her father is a housemaster. I really enjoyed this, most of it. But why oh why do all British books post 1960 have the mandatory dose of sordidness? YAs don't have to have it rammed down their throats, let them hang on ...more
Sally Whitehead
I am clearly missing something here because the majority of the reviews for this book are really positive.

Quaint, quirky and eccentric?

Sorry, all I got was stylistically irritating prose about an utterly alienating cast of one dimensional characters.

It all felt a bit like those times I have had the misfortune of hearing Sarah Kennedy on the radio talking about her utterly unrelatable lifestyle.

Lovely I imagine, if you like that sort of thing. Not for me.
Jessica (herself) Nickelsen
Poor old Bilgie! She lives at a boys' school with her father and everyone thinks she's a bit mad. But this excellently erudite character has all sorts of hidden depths to her, as well as a wonderful judgemental eye!

It's a great coming-of-age story (a genre I find hard to resist, when well-written), and one I'll definitely be recommending to friends. Sure, it has a real late-sixties feel to it, but that only adds to the overall interesting vibe of this tale...
Hà Linh
This book is just too lovely. It is what many YA novels are, predictable, dramatic and self-indulgent. It has those lovely moments that make you earnestly nostalgic for a time you never live in, for things you never have in your life, necessarily. And it is also what many YA novels can't be or fail to, beautifully constructed, brilliantly written with a terrific sense of humor.
Ashley
I've been interested in reading something by this author for a long time--and this is supposed to be her best work, but . . . I started skimming halfway through and lost interest. It's well-written, but I guess I just don't like awkward coming-of-age stories or precocious teenage characters. It's not my kind of book.
Hirondelle
I was totally charmed, without expecting to, by this book. A growing up story, a bit like I Capture the Castle but different, slightly surreal and perhaps a more opaque read. But so lovely.

Slightly spoilerish, I am tremendously confused by when the main action is supposed to take place, 1970 really?
Kingfan30
This was my first read by this author. It was OK, the characters a bit eccentric and not entirely believable, particularly the Marigold (Bilgewater). A light quick read, I would not be put off reading another book by this author but will not be rushing out to find more.
Terri Suzie
This book has been sitting on my shelf forever and I finally picked it up for the Under Hyped Reads readathon on Youtube. First published in 1976, this book had only 219 ratings here on Goodreads - and I absolutely loved it! Fuller review coming soon :)
☯Bettie☯
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sue
Marigold is the bright (but dyslexic) daughter of a housemaster in a boys' school. The book is about her teenage years, her growing awareness of how other people live, and her honest thoughts. Oddly written in places, but enjoyable anyway.
Nenia Campbell
You can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.


Help! Help! I'm trapped in a James Joyce knockoff!



You know what's cool about being a classic? You can be as insipid and cliche ridden as you please, but because you're a classic, you can get away with it.



Bilgewater takes place in the 1970s. It is about the daughter of a housemaster of an all boys' boarding school. Do you smell a rude and awkward tale of sexual awakening coming up? I do!



The girl's name is Marigold but for reasons I forg
...more
Sheena
Second book read in Seefeld on holiday.Really enjoyed this. Set where I grew up but also rather poignant ending. Passed it on to my daughter as I think she will identify with the main character.
Jean
I liked it, but it's not as pulled together or easy to follow as "A Long Way from Verona", which I loved. Has a smart and quirky teenage heroine, set in Great Britain some years back.
Fiona
Audio CD
Really enjoyed this NICE story and was surprised to find myself laughing out loud in the car.
Jane
What can I say? I think Jane Gardam is an amazing writer. And this book perfectly captures the angst of a bookish teenager. Loved it.
Misha
This is one of Nancy Pearl's favorite books, and while I enjoyed it, and love Gardam, it didn't knock my socks off.
Oanh
Jane Gardam writes powerful, evocative, heartfelt and aching stories of loneliness.
Mary Kay
Lovely! Absolutely lovely! Can't wait to read more!
Karen Wickham
This was an unusual book and I enjoyed it because of that
Kristin
I fall in love with Gardam's characters. Again.
MsEleanorMae
Great read, beautifully written.
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED - Girl, England, Boys boarding school [s] 4 38 Aug 29, 2014 05:34AM  
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Jane Mary Gardam OBE is a British author of children's and adult fiction. She also reviews for the Spectator and the Telegraph, and writes for BBC radio. She lives in Kent, Wimbledon and Yorkshire. She has won numerous literary awards including the Whitbread Award, twice. She is mother of Tim Gardam, Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford. Jane has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for ...more
More about Jane Gardam...
Old Filth (Old Filth, #1) The Man in the Wooden Hat (Old Filth, #2) Last Friends (Old Filth, #3) God on the Rocks The Queen of the Tambourine

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