Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Quick Meade Read - April 2012

"Fire Fancies" by Arthur Hacker (1858-1919)

It will be Poverty Castle, my loves, and we'll have to stint and scrape and contrive; but at any rate we'll be merry when we can be merry, and we'll forget our troubles in doing good to others. ~~ Aunt Susy in A Modern Tomboy
Just a quick suggestion on a cutesy L.T. Meade novel to check out if you like. This one is unique in that it had a slightly darker tone than most of her works, but in a humorous way. It's sweet, but not so much so that it's sickening. It feels more real in a way, I guess because in this one, the world is shown as still potentially beautiful despite being less than rosy-colored. There is something apropos about it, given these modern days of recession, in that a professor and his wife, finding hard financial times, decide to open their home as a boarding school for girls simply to make ends meet, calling it "Sunnyside" (funny, when you consider the inspiration for opening the school in the first place). 

One student, Rosamund Cunliffe, turns out to be the rebel in the crowd. She struggles with rules and conformity in general. She doesn't see the purpose and resents the attempts made on her to stifle her passion for being free and living. Rosamund feels that school is just a place where you're told what living is like, rather than being given the chance to experience yourself... least not til one is older. I certainly knew that infuriating feeling of being imprisoned myself as a child!

It is a curious fact that there are some weak but loving people who are not loved in return. If they are sincere and honest they always inspire respect. If they are at the same time unselfish, that noble quality must also tell in the long run. But to look at them is not to love them, and consequently, they go through life with a terrible heart-longing unknown to their fellow men, only known to the God above, who will doubtless reward these simple and earnest and remarkably beautiful souls in His own good time in another world. Such a person was Emily Frost. She was very patient, very brave, very unselfish; but no one particularly cared for her. She knew this quite well; she had a passionate hunger for love, but it was not bestowed upon her. She was well educated and could teach splendidly, but she could never arouse enthusiasm in her pupils. A far less highly educated woman could do twice the amount poor Miss Frost could ever achieve, simply because she possessed the gift denied to the latter.

Fate, luck, circumstances, whatever you want to call it, puts Rosamund in the path of the ridiculously wealthy widow, Lady Ashleigh and her even more ridiculously spoiled daughter, Irene. Irene is a few years younger than preteen Rosamund. For reasons unknown, the wild, bohemian Irene responds to Rosamund's more calm nature. For the first time in her life, Irene tones down her bossy nature and starts to act like something resembling a young lady! But it's not all smooth sailing. Irene, much like an addict trying to reform themselves, falls off the goody-goody wagon a number of times, continuing to play malicious pranks on her mother's estate staff, one of the worst being an incident where Irene, acting unusually sweet to her nanny Emily Frost (nicknamed "Frosty" by Irene, perhaps partly as a joke for her prim, serious behavior), attends to the woman one day when said nanny doesn't feel quite herself. Pretending to get Frosty's digestive pills, Irene actually trades them out for white woodlice (you may  be more familiar with their other name, "roly-poly" bugs)

Yeah... little brat made Frosty eat these!!

Not that it matters, after all, how we get our diseases; the thing is to cure them when we have acquired them.  ~~ The professor in a moment of naivety in A Modern Tomboy

>>> an interesting link between a couple of Meade's stories for those that follow her works -- in this book,
dyptheria outbreaks are mentioned, as is "the new treatment of antitoxin". In another of Meade's works, Sweet Girl Graduate, the outbreak used is that of typhoid. <<<<<<<<

"The Blue Rowboat" by Claude Monet
There was a line in this book - about Irene wearing "a garish red dress",
sailing on the lake in "a blue sailboat tipped in white" -
such a simple line but it created such an image in my mind!

(how I kinda pictured Irene's "garish red dress")

Parts of this book reminded me of a Tim Burton movie - what with Irene's red dress, the blue boat tipped in white, and Irene insisting on calling her mother "Mumsy-Pums". The vivid colors and patterns described, the quirky characters, dream-like estates the lower classes aspire to ... such a cool era!

Not sure if this book was one written in a rush or what, but I found a few continuity issues within the story. 

** Aunt Susy, the aunt of Lucy (Lucy's mother owns and runs Sunnyside School) tells the story of the unexpected death of her twin sister. The story explains Susy as Lucy's maternal aunt -- that kind of story would've never come up before? Her own mother wouldn't have mentioned losing a sister??

***Lucy's father, the professor, is described as having black hair at the beginning of the story, but in less than a year's time his hair is described as white, with no explanation given. 

There are multiple themes running throughout this story -- the pain and damage one experiences as a result of being bullied, the power of a reformed spirit, beauty in friendship, in fighting through life's barriers. Everything to leave you uplifted. :-)