E.J. Oxenham is one of those writers who those in the know rave about a bit like Elinor M Brent Dyer. Her prolific collection of school stories is now out of print so inaccessible to all apart from collectors. I have to say that I've had mixed feelings about her books; she is most famous for the Abbey School series, but previously I have found them dated and difficult to get into, perhaps because I came to them as an adult, whereas, with Angela Brazil, another slightly dated school story writer, I read as a child when I probably looked beyond that and concentrated on the story.
But I had several reasons for being interested in Damaris Dances. Firstly, it is set in part in the Lake District, so it was another appropriate holiday read. But more importantly was the title character Damaris. I wrote a little while ago about my pleasure at reading a book in which the principle character was called Verity; one of my two middle names is Damaris, and it is extremely rare to ever come across another Damaris. Damaris is a biblical name, she is mentioned in the book of The Acts of the Apostles as being one of the early Christians. My father chose it as my middle name because my Great Aunt, and two ancestors preceding her, also had that name, and there is a little cup, over 100 years old, which has been passed down the "Damaris line" (unfortunately my father is in the process of moving house so I wasn't able to go and take a picture of it).
Onto the book itself - the dancing theme makes it somewhat reminiscent of Lorna Hill, particularly with the juxtaposition of the lakeland countryside and the cities where Damaris is learning to dance. it's a fairly gentle but still gripping story, although I was a bit upset that Damaris changes her name to Damayris as being a better stage name for a ballerina. The book is out of print these days, sadly, and very pricey on Amazon, so I am very lucky that Geraldine who I have made friends with through this blog extremely kindly passed on a spare copy that she had of it when she heard that my middle name was Damaris. And thank you to her for suggesting it!
(PS: My other middle name is Jane, which is also my mother's middle name. There are a lot more Janes around so it is far less of a novelty encountering a fictional Jane, but perhaps sometime I will do a post on Janes in fiction).
Diana Tempest by Mary Cholmondeley
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