Hands up if you read this and loved it when you were little. Amazingly, you could have done if you were born in the 1920s, as it was first published in 1936 -- then again in the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s etc etc etc. A true classic, and one that I absolutely loved as a child -- being at the time wildly ambitious to be a famous actress, it fed my fantasies to bursting point. This is the story of three little girls, adopted as babies by the eccentric fossil collector known as Great Uncle Matthew (or Gum), who disappears soon afterwards leaving them in the care of his ward Sylvia and their plump and comfortable Nana. Money gets shorter and shorter -- the girls have to leave school, but are thankfully able to get a good education, as they are taught at home by the two "lady doctors", a literature one and a mathematical one, who lodge in the house. Another lodger teaches at a school of dance and drama, and through her, the girls get places at the school. The beautiful Pauline eventually becomes a famous actress, the astonishingly talented Posy joins a celebrated ballet school in Europe, and the middle sister, the tomboyish Petrova, looks forward to a career as a pilot or a chauffeur and to living with Gum, who has returned home in the nick of time. Something for everyone, really. I can't claim to have given this book much thought in recent years, but it all came flooding back when I saw it was going to be on the BBC on Boxing Day. I enjoyed it a lot -- it was wonderfully cast, with Victoria Wood as Nana, Emilia Fox as Sylvia, and most memorably Gemma Jones and Harriet Walter (with short hair and a monocle) as the two lady doctors. It seemed pretty true to the original but I had to find out if it was, so I managed to get hold of it and have just finished reading it. And in fact, with one notable exception, it was. The exception was the introduction of romance. In the book, Petrova manages to indulge her passion for cars because a lodger called Mr Simpson owns a garage, where he lets her work on her days off. Mr Simpson is a slightly shadowy character, and has a wife -- even shadowier and lacking a first name -- called Mrs Simpson. For the BBC, though, Mr S became a quiet but rather glamorous chap, a widower whose wife and son had died in an epidemic. And, finally, he proves to have been in love with Sylvia all the time, despite appearances to the contrary -- so the adaptation ended with a wedding, of the sort so beloved by classical adaptors, all flowers and dancing and laughter. Should we mind this? I didn't, actually -- in fact I couldn't remember if it had been in the book, though without it the book ends on perhaps a slightly darker note -- poor Sylvia -- I wonder how she would have got on in Hollywood, where she went to live with Pauline, who was clearly going to be a BIG STAR.