The Adventure of the Floating Flat by Irene Byers

A vintage children’s story with great charm. I picked up this novel in a second hand shop, never having heard of the author Irene Byers before. I’ve since been astonished to discover that she wrote over forty novels, mainly for children, yet barely anything is known of her. Out of curiosity I have ordered several of her works and plan to review them all.

The Adventure of the Floating Flat is a children’s adventure story very much in the vein of an Enid Blyton adventure story. It begins with three children and their mother cramped into a small London flat awaiting the return of their father from post-War rebuilding work overseas. Given his rank and the usual higher remuneration of overseas postings, it seems unlikely they’d be so close to the breadline that the girl has to sleep on a camp bed in the bathroom when her father returns.

There are many fun if implausible escapades going on, from a lost and divided will to a threatening symbol and plenty of kidnappings. You’ll see the ending coincidence coming a mile off, even though it makes minimal sense and is the least plausible element of the book. Definitely a book to enjoy with the enthusiasm of a child, not the cynical eye of an adult.

I suspect Byers fell out of fashion as her young protagonists (not just in The Floating Flat, but in others of hers I’ve read) tend to be rather markedly “middle class”, set against more rough-and-ready “working class” children. This gives the book a dated feel, but there’s still great vintage charm here.

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