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Good-bye Gemma

Good-bye Gemma was first published in 1969, with a US edition in the same year (as Good-Bye Gemma!). It is now out of print, although the recent (1999) Collins paperback (under the title Gemma in Love) may still be available in shops.


Story | Connections to Other Books | Thoughts | Editions and Availability

Story

The final book in the Gemma series is eventful for all members of the family.

Gemma is invited to play the part of Juliet in the Headstone University production of Romeo and Juliet, with a very exciting Romeo. Then her mother telephones to say she has been offered a television role in England, and she wants Gemma to come and live in London with her. This would mean giving up the play, which Gemma refuses to do.

Lydia is distraught when she learns that Miss Arrowhead will be going away for four months. When in London with the family, she manages to see Monsieur de Clara, one of the best teachers in the world, who tells her that one day he will send for her for an audition. However, her punishment for slipping away without telling the family - leaving them terrified that she may have been lost or kidnapped - is far worse than she could have imagined: she is not to perform in Gemma and Sisters over Christmas.

Robin and Nigs are excited when there is an offer to make a Gemma and Sisters record. However, the plans suddenly change, and the record becomes a solo work for Ann. Robin, who had dreamed of the record being a hit, and swirled music becoming the latest craze, suffers the first serious disappointment of his life.

Connections to Other Books

Good-bye Gemma is the fourth in a four book series: the other three books are Gemma, Gemma and Sisters and Gemma Alone.

Thoughts

(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have not read the book.)

In Good-bye Gemma, Noel again moves into what could be considered "Young Adult" rather than "Children's" territory, by showing Gemma falling in love with the actor playing Romeo. However, this is dealt with very superficially: in fact, Gemma's internal life seems to be very much less in evidence here than in the earlier books in the series. By contrast, we seem to see proportionally more of Ann's, Lydia's and Robin's emotional lives. It is possible that the idea of Gemma falling in love was included to appeal to what the contemporary readers wanted, but that Noel was not particularly interested in it. Certainly, it is not something she looked at, either before or since, in her books for children.

Noel also seems to be making a conscious effort - even more so than in the earlier Gemma books - to give Good-bye Gemma a contemporary setting. In addition to Ann's career as a pop singer, Gemma's involvement in the University play lets Noel mention sit-ins and Vietnam rallies.

However, in spite of the rather forced nature of some of the material, Good-bye Gemma still contains much that is interesting. In Lydia's successful attempt to have Monsier de Clara see her dance, Noel revisits Posy's assault on Manoff from Ballet Shoes. In this case, however, the idea of a child disappearing for hours is taken rather more seriously. Although Pauline, Petrova and the Doctors are worried about Posy, they do not tell Nana or Sylvia - or the police - that she is missing; and when she returns safely the whole event is quickly forgotten. With Lydia, however, Noel shows us clearly the agonies the family is suffering in not knowing what has happened to her. It also gives Gemma the opportunity to reflect on the nature of ambition:

She remembered the agony in Alice's voice as she had said "Lydie's missing". Could any result that might come from Lydie meeting Monsieur de Clara be worth the suffering she had caused? And yet in itself Lydie's driving ambition was a good thing. You could not get far without it. Oh, dear, how puzzling life was! (Good-bye Gemma, 1969:59-60)

Another interesting factor is the development of Ann's career. At the end of Gemma Alone, it seemed that, in spite of her talent, Ann would not be following a career in music because of the aspects she disliked (stagecraft). In Good-bye Gemma, however, Noel takes her back into the world of music, by finding the opportunity - in the world of pop - for her to "just sing". One cannot but feel sorry for Philip - although this is not a side of the story Noel emphasises - in having to first accept that Ann will not be going to the Royal College of Music, and then see her performing in a musical arena for which he has little respect.

Editions and Availability

UK Editions

Good-bye Gemma was first published in 1969, with cover painting and illustrations by Betty Maxey. The entire Gemma series was "specially written by Noel Streatfeild for Armada Books". Thus, the first edition was a paperback, and it appears that Good-bye Gemma has never had a hardcover release.

It was republished in the early 1970s as an "Armada Lion" paperback, still with the Betty Maxey illustrations, but with a photographic cover.

In the later 1970s it came out as a "Fontana Lion" paperback with the Betty Maxey illustrations and a (different) photographic cover. This edition continued to be republished into the 1980s, with yet another cover design.

In 1999 Collins released a new paperback edition, with a new cover design, and a new title - Gemma in Love.

US Editions

In the same year as its UK release (1969), a slightly retitled edition - Good-Bye Gemma! - was released in the United States by Dell.

It was republished in the late 1980s as a Dell Yearling paperback.

As I have not read the US editions, I do not know if the text was in any way amended.

Out of Print

1999 Collins paperback edition of Gemma in Love    

The 1999 Collins paperback edition of Gemma in Love may still be available in shops. However, it is no longer listed on the HarperCollins website, and can therefore be assumed to be out of print.

In February 2004, second hand copies through online booksellers start in price at around 2. (Source: Addall Used and Out of Print Book Search.)

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. © 1969 Noel Streatfeild

 

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