by George Thompson, 3rd May 2051
It is twenty-five years since the poignant Betty’s Adventure by Alice Edwards was published by Usborne. It was an instant worldwide hit, taking its place in the canon of children’s classics alongside The Cat in the Hat, The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Matilda. Last month a unique early draft was discovered, which appears to settle a long-standing controversy.
At the time Betty’s Adventure was published, Alice Edwards had just broken through to huge global success with her indie/folk/pop band The People Versus. The publication of her children’s book was sceptically received by some, who suspected that she had hired a ghost writer to cash in on her success. Edwards never addressed these claims, saying she didn’t care whether or not people believed she had written it.
Her father Rik fiercely defended her as the true author, claiming she had written it for him as a Christmas present, about their family pet. But as his intervention came at a time of increasing mental instability, few people paid attention. Some years later he died in a freak meat cleaver accident while visiting Kamchatka with his wife.
The precious manuscript was discovered in his effects when the family home was cleared last month, among a huge pile of theatre tickets and old race results. This provenance seems to settle the Edwards authorship question decisively. But it is unlikely that Alice cares one way or the other. At the height of her fame she quit the music business abruptly, enigmatically answering all press questions with “Oingo Boingo”, and retired to her large Oxfordshire estate with twenty dogs, where she still lives as a semi-recluse.
The manuscript is very similar to the final published work. It will be auctioned by Christie’s on 18th May, with all the proceeds, at Alice’s stipulation, going to dog charities. It is estimated to fetch £1.5m – £2m. The full manuscript is shown below, by permission of Christie’s.
© Alice Edwards 2022