The first in the long list of Streatfeild books, this is the story of Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil. They weren’t born sisters, but after Gum (Great-Uncle-Matthew) collects them in his travels, they became the Fossil sisters. (Fossil because Gum used to collect fossils before he lost his leg and then he collected them instead.)
The bulk of the book deals with the three girls at Madame Fidolia’s Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. Posy exhibits a remarkable talent for dancing, Pauline for acting, and Petrova….well, Petrova is certainly talented, but her talents lie more in the world of aviation than anything else. Still Garnie, their guardian (Gum’s real great-neice), needs the money so Petrova keeps on dancing.
The book is a simple and sweet story with the three girls and the somewhat unlikely household around them realistically and sympathetically drawn. Gum is away on a long voyage and so he becomes a sort of mythic figure—a shadowy presence that the girls don’t remember but that nonetheless influenced the whole course of their lives.
The book also gives the reader an interesting glimpse into life in London in the years before WWII. The girls are definitely poor and the book does not shy away from portraying their struggles with their lack of means. Almost everything works out in the end, but enough is left unresolved to keep the story from becoming unbelievable or unpalatably sweet. In my opinion, the most unbelievable thing about the story is the way that the three girls are found. But I’m not sure that we aren’t meant to laugh at that part and not entirely believe it.