Mr. and Mrs. Conroy send their four daughters to stay with their grandmother while they spend a modest windfall on having their house extended. The girls go with poor grace, and their hearty grandmother is determined to do them good by denying them access to any kind of reading material, forcing them into outdoor activities. The sisters initially resent being sent into exile while their parents spend money they feel they should have had a share in, and do everything they can to get hold of things to read. The girls and Big Grandma settle down into a position of mutual respect and indeed enjoyment, without either side retreating from their position on reading. When the girls are to return home, each finds it in her to give Big Grandma a present. Only then do they discover a secret supply of books and things go horribly wrong.

The characters are both simple and interesting. In their different ways the sisters are all batty, as though all the qualities of one’s most imaginative and outspoken friends have been poured into them. Their moments of sanity, such as when they turn up for tea at a neighbor’s house wet and dishevelled, or when they apologise to Big Grandma, are quite believable and almost touching.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London.  He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.