Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two Weeks to Remember - 1986

Charity Graham, 26, pretty - has dark, curling hair and a splendid figure (the dark curly hairs brands her as an Outlier). She is a shorthand typist, lives at home with her father (who loves first editions more than his daughter) and her Aunt Emily - who just doesn't seem to be able to make ends meet. She has been dating The Regrettable Sidney for a while now. She regrets that she is quite unable to daydream about him. He is some sort of civil servant - and acts like it. Very early on in the book she gives him the heave-ho. Charity works at St. Augustine's which is described as resembling Eustace Station, with more than a dash of the original Crystal Palace. Charity spends her days incarcerated in a room, typing, with the acidic Miss Hudson who is forever griping at Charity. Much of the typing Charity does is for Professor Jake Wyllie-Lyon (age 35ish) - who is the Senior Medical Consultant. We know right off that he's a good guy because of his atrocious handwriting that Charity has to decipher. Charity runs into Professor Hottie in the cemetery - where she is eating her ham roll while leaning up against an eighteenth-century angel. He leans up against a stone scroll - that lists the names of the family Wodecock...but I digress, he leans on the scroll and then invites Charity to go have a cup of coffee with him...which she does. He asks her about what went wrong with her date - and she, being an honest girl tells him that she dumped The Regrettable Sidney. Not long after that the professor takes her to lunch at The Cat and the Fiddle (pub) and he pumps her for more info..."Do you ever feel that you would like to change your job, Charity?" I sense some foreshadowing here. A couple of pages later he shows up at the Church Fête and watches Charity sell a crocheted bedjacket in a revolting shade of pink to a haughty lady from the better end of St. John's Wood. "I must say you have remarkably persuasive powers; no woman worth her salt would wear a pink monstrosity such as you have just sold her." Jake (I refuse to keep typing "Professor Wyllie-Lyon") takes Charity and Aunt Emily home - which is not unalloyed joy to Charity. "The professor had been a kind of secret delight to her, an interest in her otherwise rather staid life." He's about to become more - because he asks her if she will quite working at the hospital and come work in his office as his secretary is leaving in a month to get married. Well, duh. She does go to his office to be given the tour by his current secretary. His offices sound pretty posh, I especially like the touch of having a cheery imitation log fire in the consulting room. That would certainly help nervous patients relax. The work is hard, but she does get perks: much better salary, somewhat flexible hours, and a handsome boss. Unfortunately that boss has a girlfriend named Bad News Brenda. We know Brenda is evil because she calls the doctor at work saying that "it's urgent" in a high imperious voice and her name is "Brenda". Jake takes Charity home from time to time when she has to work late - her dad likes him "He's an Oxford man...went to Magdalen." Enter Dr. Kemble, Kiwi. He's in the UK for a couple of months to pick up some ideas about leukemia. Pick up ideas about leukemia? Yeah, and pick up Charity. The first time he meets her he tries to ask her out. That must have effected her in some way or another because by the end of the day she figures out that she's in love. In love with Jake - not Dr. Kemble. "And of all the silly things to do...that's just about the silliest." I beg to differ. The silliest thing she does is to walk over to his house and spy on him that evening. She ends up hiding in the area (British word alert!) of a house across the street. Charity goes out with Dr. Kemble wherein he confesses his love...his love for a girl back home in New Zealand. Which nicely sets Charity up with a smokescreen for her love. Crossing the street to work one morning Charity rescues a dog...with the help of Jake. Jake must find dog rescuing irresistible, because he gives Charity a kiss. After work Jake takes her back to his place so that they may take care of that important item of business, The Ceremonial Naming of The Rescued Animal. Since the dog is so bony, he gets the name of....Bones (perhaps La Neels was a closet Trekkie?) Speaking of names, Jake calls Charity an "echinus" - harmless and pleasing to look at but very prickly. Jake goes away on business for a couple of days - Charity drinks her coffee while sitting in his office chair - the picture of Bad News Brenda is staring at her, so she places it face down on the desk...and forgets to put it back. When Jake asks her to speak to the cleaning lady about it, she fesses up. Christmas rolls around - and Neels approved gifts are handed round...a Hermes scarf from Jake to Charity, a leather pocket book from Charity to Jake. And now we come to.....Two Weeks to Remember! Jake takes Charity to Norway for two weeks. Don't worry about the language, everyone speaks English! Jake happens to speak Norwegian - since his mum is Norwegian! Charity spends most of her days typing like a maniac, when she's not taking down shorthand. Jake does manage to take her the ski jump and Vigeland Park. She likes Vigeland so much that she goes back by herself the next day. (*no offense to Norwegians, but I just wasn't into the art I saw there...) When the weekend comes, it's off to the family homestead near Flam. After a coffee break en route, Jake kisses Charity...she tells him not to do it again, and he says, "Another word for Charity is love. Shall I call you that?" Girlfriend, he's hitting on you! Wake up! Charity says that they must remember Bad News Brenda...This is Jake's cue to say, Forget Bad News Brenda, but no, he says they will have to have "a little talk" when they return home and have more time...hint, hint. Maybe instead of spending the weekend trying to teach Charity to ski they could have had "a little talk"? He misses a great opportunity when he takes her to visit the stave church at Laerdal...I can't imagine it being crowded in January. Back to Oslo for another week of nose to the grindstone...while eating breakfast together on the last morning Charity is to be found staring at an appalling picture on the wall instead of peeking at Bad News Brenda's letter that Jake is carelessly strewing around the table. Seeing as it's Oslo, I'm sure the picture on the wall was appalling. Speaking of appalling pictures on walls in Oslo has anyone else ever noticed the murals in Oslo Town Hall? Just missing some black velvet to make them perfect...Back to the family homestead for the weekend - Charity accidentally skis down the slope and nearly into the fjord...only her good fairy kept her skis from tangling. Jake helps her stop, then takes her back up and makes her go down again. A quick trip to Bergen on the way home...sightseeing at Grieg's house, the Floien (Neels spelling) funicular, the Bryggen, King Haakon's Hall, King Oscar's Gate, you know, touristy stuff. Back home again, Charity goes on one last date with Dr. Kemble - and as if we need any reminders that he is not "Mr. Right" - he takes her to Poon's Chinese restaurant (which recently made an appearance in Last April Fair). Darn. La Neels didn't put any danger (except for a brief skiing snafu) in this book...let's slip it in on page 168! As Charity is taking a packed bus home from work - the bus gets hi-jacked by some young thugs and crashes. No one seems hurt until someone yells "FIRE", and the stout man in front of Charity elbows her right in the eye. That's enough to get her taken to the hospital where Jake sees her getting out of the ambulance..."My poor darling...." Methinks it's just about time for that little talk. Nope, after getting examined in the Accident Centre, Jake wisks Charity back to his house and has his housekeeper tuck her up while waiting for Aunt Emily to come and act as chaperone. When she has recovered a bit, it's time to go back home, but not before a handy bit of snogging in the hall and Charity confessing her love...(how about that little talk NOW???)...On her way back to her home, Charity stops by the office to see how things are going and finds her replacement! Replacement? Yes, she has been made redundant. Of course she cries (is that good for her black eye?). Jake doesn't come around for 3 days - not until she is stuck selling knitted baby booties at the church Fancy Fair. Jake hauls her off to the pantry and confesses his love and proposes. Kisses ensue...the end.

Rating: In spite of the name "Two Weeks to Remember", this is not one of La Neels most memorable books. Is it bad? No. Is it good? Well....sometimes. I am quite put off that Jake confesses his love on the last page of the book and says "I've been in love with you since the very first moment I set eyes on you. You were standing on a chair in Miss Hudson's office changing a light bulb. I took one look and knew that there would never be anyone else but you." It sounds lovely and all, until you consider that he's known her for about two years and did nothing about it except to date Bad News Brenda and put her picture on his desk. Lame. None of the supporting characters, with perhaps the exception of the acidic Miss Hudson, really seemed fleshed out. Despite a houseful of family in Norway, only Jake's mum is introduced, which is really a shame. Aunt Emily and Mr. Graham are better, but only slightly, and the odious Brenda is given one short scene, a phone call or two and a letter. I would rate this one somewhere in between treacle tart and mince pies.
Food: slabs of corned beef, baked beans and instant mashed potatoes on a take-it or leave-it basis, roll eaten while leaning on a stone angel in a cemetery, cheese soufflé, treacle tart, mushrooms in cream and wine, lobster Cardinal, purée of chestnets with whipped cream, shrimp cocktail, steak tartare, crêpe Suzette, ansjos (marinated sprats), torsk (cod), flotte vaffles served with cloudberries, riskrem.
Fashion: last year's moss crêpe in a pleasing shade of mushroom pink, fine wool dress in a pleasing shade of green, sheepskin jacket, hand knitted matching scarf, cap and gloves, white tie and tails, top hat.


  1. I just finish reading this one.. I liked the review but 2 things.
    1) You state: "Crossing the street to work one morning Charity rescues a dog...with the help of Jake. Jake must find dog rescuing irresistible, because he gives Charity a kiss." - I think she was danger of getting run over saving that dog so that's the reason he kissed her - he waited 2 years for her to break up with her lame boy friend, he finally has her to himself all day and then she nearly gets herself killed - I liked that scene -
    2) THAT would be a riot if Betty had been A Star Trek fan - LOL

  2. Jake is sweet -- he doesn't try to bust up Charity and The Regrettable Sidney, he's not one of the snarky heroes and I don't have any trouble believing he loves Charity, long before he says so. Loved his mum and family.

    I didn't find Aunt Emily insubstantial, quite the contrary. Her dad was, more, kind of a stereotype of the head-in-the-clouds academic. I think maybe that's why she ascribes the same characteristics to Jake at the beginning.

    So, I guess what I'm saying is I like this better than you did. :)