‘“It was Uncle who was your father,” she said.’
So begins SF Edition No. 33: The Secret Orchard of Roger Ackerley, Diana Petre’s utterly unselfpitying and often very funny account of what must be one of the oddest childhoods on record.
Diana and her twin sisters grew up in Barnes, South London, in the care of an elderly housekeeper, having been abandoned in 1912 by their mother, the enigmatic Mrs Muriel Perry, whose real name and true identity were a mystery. After an absence of ten years, Muriel reappeared and took charge of her children, with disastrous results. For the girls, one of the highlights of their isolated lives were visits from a kindly man they knew as ‘Uncle Bodger’. In fact, as Muriel finally revealed, he was their father, Roger Ackerley.
One of the things that makes The Secret Orchard so gripping is that it’s constructed like a detective story, in which Diana asks questions, follows clues and pores over documents in an attempt to unravel the truth. Please read on for an extract from this extraordinary story, along with a selection of recommendations for other summer reading.
And, for those of you following our journey through the magazine’s archives from A–Z, today’s free article takes us to Ireland as Caroline Jackson delights in the novels of self-professed ‘girl from the bogs’ Molly Keane. You’ll find a snippet in the newsletter, together with a link to the full article.
Meantime, we’ll leave you to uncover the evasions and deceits of The Secret Orchard.
With best wishes, as ever, from the SF office staff
Jennie, Anna, Hattie, Jess & Helen