The Big Abbey Read– can you fit the whole EJO canon into a reading order?
This question arose from an enquiry on the internet. My first reaction was no, not at all; there are too many anachronisms to be able to read the books sensibly in the order they were meant to have happened.
But on reflection, it is possible to work out an accommodation, where a practical reading order is feasible that fits the Abbeys and their connectors into a plausible sequence. Taking as a basis the full list of Abbey books, the titles that connect must be fitted in just before the Abbey book with the first mention of the character being introduced to the main series.
So if you want to try it, begin by reading Girls of the Hamlet Club through to Secrets of the Abbey, an easy Abbey-ish start. Then continue with Stowaways to Tomboys – but interspersed as you wish with A School Camp Fire, The School of Ups and Downs and Patience Joan, Outsider, to give yourself a break from an overdose of the rather weak later Retrospectives, as these are also supposed to take place during the First World War.
Then go to The School Torment (and possibly Testing of the Torment and Camp Fire Torment) to know Tormentil’s background, and The Two Form Captains and Captain of the Fifth for Tazy and Karen’s history, before reading AG Go Back to School, set during 1919-1921.
After that you need A Go-Ahead Schoolgirl and Tickles to introduce you to the Rocklands crowd, and then Jen of the Abbey School to see how they connect in. These overlap in time to some extent, as Go-Ahead is fairly definitely tied to 1916, and Jen happns fairly concurrently with Go Back to School.
New AG to AG At Home then run fairly smoothly, but before Play Up you need to have read Crisis in Camp Keema, Peggy and the Brotherhood and Camp Mystery, and you could start fitting in the four Sussex Set titles (The Junior Captain, Peggy Makes Good, The School Without a Name and Ven at Gregory’s) as and when, as well as catching up on the second and third Torments if you didn’t read them earlier.
AG on Trial to Rosamund’s Victory come next, then Damaris at Dorothy’s, Maidlin to the Rescue, and Damaris Dances only to the end of Chapter 19, followed by Joy’s New Adventure.
You now need to catch up with the Quellyn and Kentisbury people, so The Girl Who Wouldn’t Make Friends and Patch and a Pawn followed by Rosamund’s Tuckshop and Maidlin Bears the Torch; then the rest of Damaris Dances, Secrets of Vairy and Rosamund’s Castle.
The next four in the Rainbows series (Adventure for Two, Elsa Puts Things Right, Pernel Wins and Daring Doranne) can be read anytime here (with Mistress Nanciebel to be fitted in somewhere before Elsa, too) as can The Troubles of Tazy and Patience and her Problems.
New Girls at Wood End needs to come next, so that everyone is accounted for and at about the right age before starting on the Second Generation Abbeys.
Maid of the Abbey through to Abbey Champion are read after that, remembering that Jandy Mac Comes Back should come after Maid, despite being published first; then you need Marjory Meets the Roses before reading Robins through to Two Queens to finish you off.
If you want to consult the full list of the titles in their various series, look at my booklet The Books of Elsie J Oxenham (still available) both of which show the complete lists with the codes and my notes, and where the relevant Abbey ones fit into each of the connecting series.
The non-connectors are, apart from the obvious historical ones, set around the time they were published, so if you want, these can be read before, during, or after the Big Abbey Read!