“I’ll never forget it,” Dick declares at the end of the adventure.
It is the height of the gold rush when Dick and his sister, Betty Yorke, make their first visit to stay with the Linton family at Billabong and encounter rather more excitement than they’d bargained for.
News of the gold strike has brought hopeful prospectors into the Billabong hills, among them an unscrupulous ex-prize fighter named McGill, who declares his own private war on ‘the Linton crowd’.
It is Lee Wing, the Chinese gardener turned cook, whose ingenious plan to outwit McGill makes him the hero of the day, ably assisted by red-headed Bill Blake and his new mate Dick Yorke. At the end of the adventure, everyone agreed with Dick – it certainly was something they’d never forget!
I stole the blurb off Goodreads, because the one on my copy is a very brief description giving away no details except boys and girls will delight at this tale and that it features new and old friends. If you’ve been reading the books right from whoa to go you probably won’t care when it comes to number thirteen that there isn’t much of a blurb. This one was first published in 1937 and back then you wouldn’t have needed much of a blurb.
I’m lucky enough to have a early edition. I’ve learnt a brief way to tell which edition or printing a book is – but a very brief only-for-fun way. Just out of my own curiosity. My copy of Billabong Gold however doesn’t have any dates in it except for a message written on the inside as it was a present to my Grandpa dated 1954.
I also have parts of it’s dust jacket which are glued to the inside and on the spine section of the dust jacket there are the numbers 259 written in white above the words “Ward Lock” for the publishers Ward Lock & Co. A quick Google searched took me to Abebooks where one of the items selling has the same numbers 259 in the same position and the seller seems to think it’s a first edition.
Exciting to think I may have a first edition when an Ebay search tells me the cheapest is $52. Except since mine doesn’t have a dust jacket intact and a bit of wear and tear I’d say cheaper. But still interesting 🙂 Does anyone know what the 259 numbers mean?
Now onto the actual book review 😛
I’ve got no idea why, but I love it when they introduce new characters. It’s not as if I’m sick of the usual cast – Norah, Jim and Wally – I guess I like hearing about the new characters’ backgrounds. I was especially glad this time, that there are more characters introduced and they needed at least one more to tie off loose ends.
The previous novels in the series left some of the characters lonely, I guess, for want of a better expression. From the very start it was always Norah, her brother Jim, and Jim’s best mate Wally. They’d go on adventures together as adolescents and young adults, until of course Norah and Wally got married. This left Jim by himself, until a young boy of 12, Bill, came along who needed some guidance. Jim now had a young friend or “offsider” to keep him company and keep laughter in his life when he was feeling lonely whilst Norah and Wally started there own little family with Davie. However you couldn’t keep Jim without a wife, that would be cruel, so along comes their British neighbours brother and sister, Bob and Cecillia “Tommy”. Tommy and Jim become engaged and although Bill isn’t totally left out especially when work is to be done, Tommy and Jim always seem to take these long strolls away from everyone (I could write chapters on what happens on those “strolls” 😛 ). And of course there is the matter of Tommy’s brother Bob, who is now without a sister.
Insert Billabong Gold! and the introduction of two new characters, Betty and her younger brother Dick (here’s another novel which cannot be in primary schools unless it’s a new edition with Dick’s name changed. It would be hilarious if they now called him Richard). Betty just happens to love flying – which is Bob’s favourite thing to do – and Dick and Bill become great friends after a punch up and even go to the same school!
I was quite happy with these two new characters. I’d always felt since Tommy and Jim got engaged, that Bob did such hard work saving Tommy from her horrible step mother in London, it was beastly that he was getting left behind. See I’m even beginning to talk like them 😛
One of the things I love about the Billabong books is that Mary Grant Bruce understood that things took time. It wasn’t just a few months of Gold mining enough to fill a book, oh no, she understand that Gold mining took time. Her writing is authentic because it follows what would actually happen to a mining party, albeit a lucky and eventful one, but none the less it wasn’t a quick affair to be done and gone with in two hundred pages. She spends three books on the gold mining. From the very beginning of finding the first inclining of gold, to working it daily and keeping constant watch, to the crowd of any kinds of people wanting to try their luck on their own claims nearby, and finally to when they sell the mine to a company for a big sum.
Those three novels weren’t boring though, and especially not Billabong Gold. My favourite thing about this novel was the parts written following McGill. He is a crazy villain! When you’re in his head he’s not that horrible as to make you not like him. He’s comical some of the time too 😀
The only issue I have with this book is Jim punches up McGill and I really think it should have been Wally. Or at least given Wally more of a shot before letting Jim have a go.
This series has two more to go and I’m not sure how I feel about that.