I only cried when I got to the last page of The Abominables, so it has to be said I held out well. And I didn’t cry because it’s the last book by Eva Ibbotson, but because by the end it was definitely well into hanky territory. (Hidden part of the Himalayas.)
Written before Journey to the River Sea and Eva’s other more recent big successes, I wonder whether it was considerably before them? I know that Eva often wrote in such a timeless fashion that her stories are hard to date. But The Abominables feel older than twenty years, say. It’s got the feel of a true, old-fashioned children’s book. The way they were.
In a way I didn’t feel at all tempted by yetis in the Himalayas, but I knew being Eva’s it would be great. And it was.
Yetis are not terrible at all. They are lovely, kind, intelligent creatures. And they never eat people. If we are confused, it’s because they are going when we think they are coming, and the other way round.
The young Victorian girl Lady Agatha is kidnapped by a yeti, and ends up living with a clan of them. She teaches them Victorian standards, as is only right and proper, and they love her.
You live long in those mountains, and longer still if you’re a yeti, but sooner or later modern life has to encroach on their Victorian paradise. To save her yetis, Lady Agatha sends them on a journey to England and her old home, where they will be safe.
It’s both hilarious and heartbreaking, and anything but straightforward. But this being an old-fashioned kind of story, there has to be something worthwhile at the end.
There is. Hankies ready?
(I wouldn’t object to more of Eva’s stories being found.)
Extremely loveable yeti portraits by Sharon Rentta.