I recently read a review of the Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett at savidgereads. I also reviewed the book during Persephone Week (link here). Reading the comments for both our reviews reminded me that so many of you have mentioned that Persephone's edition is actually abridged. I was appalled as it's almost 500 pages long and I also didn't know that Persephone published condensed novels. Truly shocking! That said however, I didn't feel like the book was lacking in any way and I thought it was perfect as it was. But of course, that was before I knew it was abridged.
The whole discussion started me thinking about abridged novels in general. If you had asked me before I knew about the Shuttle, I would have said I dislike condensed novels. I think it started when I was really young and discovered that the Nancy Drew books I was reading, which were published in the 70s, were heavily abridged. For those who don't know, Nancy Drew is a titian-haired American teenage detective who solves mysteries together with her cousins Bess and George. The mysteries usually involved haunted houses, spooky intruders, secret passages and mysterious letters. Nancy would bravely whip out her magnifying glass and fearlessly investigate, solving all the puzzles in the end.
I was enthralled to discover the originals from the 40s and 50s in my local library and I devoured them. The characters were much more developed, the mysteries more intricate and the writing much more sophisticated. Also, they were five chapters longer than the newer versions. My young mind couldn't fathom why they would condense something that was so enjoyable in its original format. The characters of Bess and George for example were so much more interesting. They actually had real personalities as opposed to the caricatures that were portrayed in the newer versions. The mysteries weren't also that easy to solve. It took much more than pluck and luck for Nancy to solve everything. However, I guess if I had never known that the Nancy Drew books were condensed I would have probably still loved them. I wouldn't have known what I was missing.
To learn that the Shuttle is actually abridged is very disappointing. Rachel from Book Snob mentioned that an entire storyline and character have been eliminated. Now that's intriguing! Why did Persephone deem it necessary to do this? I do have to say though that the Shuttle had some tedious parts especially in the beginning when Burnett described the ships that took the British aristocracy and American heiresses across the ocean. If it had been any other book, I may have given up after just a few pages but being a Persephone, I perservered and was soon rewarded. Maybe the book actually needed to be trimmed down. And I must admit, now that I know the truth, The Shuttle doesn't read like a condensed book. So whatever their reasons, Persephone did a good job!
It would be interesting to hear from someone who actually read the original book. What do you think? Have you read this book and was it the original or the Persephone edition? And what do you think about abridged novels?