Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Story of Topsy.

The Story of Topsy: Little Lonely of Central Asia by Mildred Cable and Francesca French.  Hardcover published in 1937 by Hodder and Stoughton.

Whenever I see the words “Mildred”, “Cable”, “Francesca” and “French” in very quick succession, I get a little excited (not Tom Cruise jumping up and down on the couch excited… just a little excited).  These two lovely ladies were Christian missionaries in China in the early 20th century.  They wrote various books about their travels, some books about religion/missionary work in China and even managed to scribble out a few childrens books.  It’s the travel books that are of interest to me and are the reason for my excitement.  I have actually read one of their books (Through Jade Gate And Central Asia) and despite it being a few years ago, I remember very clearly that it was a great read and despite their stopping off to pray a little too often for my tastes, they were very interesting women having a very interesting time at a very interesting time in Central Asia.  

This book unfortunately, appears to not be as interesting as the book I read.  When I write “not be as interesting” I am of course giving my humble uninformed opinionated opinion and I’m willing to admit that I may be wrong (go on tell me I’m wrong).  I haven’t read the book and to be honest, if I had read the blurb a little more closely, I possibly would not have picked this book up… Topsy was a Mongolian girl adopted by Mildred and the book according to the dust jacket is a sequel to another book about Topsy entitled “Something Happened”.  Topsy… somehow I don’t think that it’s a name of Mongolian origin and why you would name someone after a rabbit, I don’t know (sounds like a rabbit name to me) ...again I may be wrong, Topsy may be a very traditional Mongolian name.  Skimming very quickly through the book, it appears to be written for children.  So I made a judgement call when I found it and in hindsight I think it was a mistake.  Travel books... good, religious conversion of Mongolian girls written for younger readers… not so good.  I will still list it on ebay and it will be cheap… you never know something may happen.


  1. Paul Perry AllSorts Bookshop NorthcoteOctober 3, 2010 at 6:07 AM

    Those intrepid women are far from forgotten. Kate James - a Lonely Planet editor who was herself a child of missionaries in India - has written about them, and her own experiences in the area. Amazon link with editorial review:

    As for the name Topsy, I agree that it doesn't sound terribly mongolian. Probably the most famous Topsy (after the bunny rabbit) was the slave girl in Uncle Tom's Cabin. But my favourite Topsy is the flapper ingenue in the A.P.Herbert books.

  2. Thank you Paul,
    I was unaware of the other Topsies, but i'm sure there are more around... but probably not in Mongolia... other than the cargo cult that insists on naming the first born female of every family, Topsy (i made this up).