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3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  325 Ratings  ·  42 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 719)
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Jack London
Dec 16, 2013 Jack London rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2015 Lukerik rated it it was amazing
I would have read this in one go but I had to repeatedly stop because I was laughing so hard. Right from the start, that bit about the teacher who cannot face forward, and later the bit where Bilge finds she's walked right through the house… these things will never leave me. Gardam has a way of making me know what something must look like without actually describing it.

I also loved the Cinderella set-up. I grew up watching Star Wars (my name's Luke, so you can see what my parents had just seen,
Jul 26, 2010 Hallie rated it really liked it  ·  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
Nov 28, 2014 Rita rated it really liked it
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,
Feb 11, 2015 William rated it really liked it
Certainly not Gardam's best, but then again, it was written almost forty years ago. Much of the brilliance of her later works can be seen here. She has an eye for social nuances and the various types of folk who live in England. Her wit is certainly already well-formed.

The coming of age aspect of the story has real charm, and the book is a fun read. But the plot is silly, almost a Feydeau farce, with characters intersecting in odd and unlikely ways. Many of Bilgie's choices make no sense, and wh
Apr 13, 2015 Sandy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a shitty site goodreads has become! How disappointing after such a promising beginning! This book is here only until I can switch everything away... But where to? Is Leafmarks really going to be any better? Faint hope!

Jane varda is a good writer. She takes the minutia of life and makes it a prominent element of the story. Bilgewater is a girl caught up in the minutia because that is her world, insular, small, narrow, unexplored by circumstances of her upbringing. And Gardam brings it that w
Jan 21, 2009 Yvonne rated it really liked it
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).
Sep 25, 2014 Fiona rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
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
Nov 24, 2011 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, young-adult
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
Oct 27, 2015 Alyson rated it it was amazing
Second time of reading and I still love this book. Gardam creates whole and unusual characters that almost leap from the page. The ending is a series of little surprises with several twists and turns of characters. I like the final chapter which takes you into the future and a sneak look at what could only guess might happen. Beautiful writing.
False Millennium
Dec 19, 2015 False Millennium rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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 have something to offer but it's an arduous journey. At times, I ached at her discom ...more
Nov 25, 2011 Barbara rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2014 Dixie rated it really liked it
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.
Debbie Cresswell
Aug 30, 2015 Debbie Cresswell rated it really liked it
Stayed up to finish reading this book. I'm now a committed Jane Gardam fan, and bought another book of hers yesterday.
Sonia Gensler
Entertaining and poignant -- Gardam certainly captures the drama and angst of adolescence.
Harini Srinivasan
Sep 02, 2011 Harini Srinivasan rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
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
Aug 12, 2013 Jessica (herself) Nickelsen rated it really liked it
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...
Jan 24, 2016 Storyheart rated it liked it
An engaging coming of age tale.
Hà Linh
Nov 21, 2014 Hà Linh rated it really liked it
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.
Louise (A Strong Belief in Wicker)
I had a bit of a love/hate reaction to Bilgewater. I could tell that Jane Gardam is clearly a good, very intelligent writer. But for some reason I didn't totally love this book. I will read more of Gardam, I'm sure she'll repay the effort.

Apr 25, 2014 Ashley rated it it was ok
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.
Jul 06, 2010 Hirondelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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?
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.
Jul 23, 2014 Terri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
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 :)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 25, 2008 Sue rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-2003
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
Mar 06, 2014 Nenia Campbell rated it it was ok
Shelves: litry-fiction
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
Jul 02, 2010 Sheena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
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.
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.
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED - Girl, England, Boys boarding school [s] 4 38 Aug 28, 2014 09:34PM  
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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
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