Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Moon for Lavinia--Discussion Thread

I really love The Moon for Lavinia. Betty Debbie nailed it perfectly--it's just a gentle little love story. What gives all the drama is that his daughter and her sister raise the stakes right out of the gate--the hero and heroine can't get tired of one another or flounce off in pettishness. They've got the girls to consider which makes for all the fun.

  • Teenage girls. Maybe I've watched too much Heathers, too much Mean Girls but I am charmed (if incredulous) by Sibby and Peta's instant rapport. Young women in their mid-teens are notoriously ugly (not plain, ugly), self-interested (not selfish just not aware of the world outside a five foot radius) and prone to violent friendships/feuds. Sibby and Peta's relationship is one of the nicest, if most fantastical, things about the book. [Betty Debbie] I spend one hour, 5 days a week around mid-teenage girls (and boys)...no matter how well-mannered those girls are, there will be much circling and sniffing and being in their own corners before true bonding can occur. I find Sibby and Peta's relationship charmingly unbelievable.
  • On the subject of step-mother/daughter relationships: My sister-in-law is getting married for the first time in June and will acquire a brand new 10-year-old step-daughter. I adore my step-mother but I'll still bet you dollars to donuts that the words "You're not my real mom!" will spill from her lips at some point. Sibby is impossibly complacent about all these upheavals. The upside of having teenage girls in the house is the built-in babysitter factor. Not that Lavinia will need that - of course there will be a nanny.
  • Aunt Gwyneth tells her that she expects her to quit he job and become her companion. "Hey, Lavinia. We don't suit. You hate me and I hate you. You know what would be a great idea?!"
  • When Lavinia, the girls and Radmer go off sailing she unintentionally sparks his interest by wearing blue jeans and an Indian cotton shirt. Sibby says smashing and sexy. Peta says 'oh rather' and Radmer merely assures her that she looks just right. She has a 'small, sneaking wish that he could have found her sexy too...She dispelled it sternly; of course he wouldn't, and come to think of it, she wasn't." Such a delightful interlude interlarded with that most un-Neels-like word (sexy). It doesn't lead to a rash of leading ladies displaying their charms in denim, however. I wonder why.
  • Radmer tells Lavinia that she has the gift of serenity. After a lengthy conferral with Betty Debbie, we decided that we neither of us had it. Our Doctor and Mijnheer, however, have it in spades. And good thing too...a darn good thing.
  • Lavinia, though a mere wife of convenience, is better at owning her space than just about every other Neels heroine. Sure, there are others who buy a home with the professor (mews cottages or small-ish houses in the country) and get to choose the fittings but other than small paintings (that are still fairly cheap and won't be hard to tuck away) I don't see much augmenting of their swanky surroundings. Lavinia takes over the conservatory and buys a hammock that the girls love and new lounge chairs and plants a vine. So if she ever ran away or he drove her away, there'd be this mute testament to her awesomeness growing away in the conservatory that he'd have to uproot (and a confused teen-aged sister-in-law hanging out with Sibby). I see her vine as a symbolic metaphor of her marriage...she carefully tends her "vine". [Betty Keira] I love the idea that if she ever left he'll either have to let it keep growing (ever reminding him of her) or have to admit to his feelings on some level and rip it out. Note to self: If involved in a one-sided love, plant something conspicuous and run.
  • I am so glad that the ending is entirely satisfying because Radmer has to make up for stripping his wedding of traditional and romantic trappings (which kind of matter to Lavinia), offering the ring in the same breath that he brings up Haunting Helga ("Here's an old ring," he says, chucking the box at her head. "Helga totally hated it."), being named Radmer (I vote she shorten it to Rad.) and saying these words: "...if no emotions are involved, the success of our marriage is assured."--code for "I intend to ignore you and I sure am glad you won't mind or make me feel yucky about it."

3 comments:

  1. I think I need to read this book! Also, re: teenage girls - my husband and several friends work with youth group at church and we've never seen this instant bonding. I read about it in books fairly often and I wonder if it's something that the authors wish would happen to them and so that's why it goes into the book. I know back when I was a teenager and read this stuff in YA books, I wished real life was like that.

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  2. This book was one I just picked up in the last month or so and is one of the few Betty Neels I hadn't read before. I absolutely loved how open and frank our dear Lavinia and her RDD were throughtout the beginning of their acquaintance (until she realized she was in love with him and could no longer be quite so honest). Until then I was delighted with their conversations. I don't think I've ever seen a Neels hero so completely forthright.

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  3. When I am just "grazing" for something to read, I often pick up this one. One of my favorites, just a nice read.

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