Thursday, September 30, 2010

The End of the Rainbow - 1974


Oh my stars, I love this book. Poor little Cinderella...er...Olympia. The handsome, genial giant, Waldo. A cavalcade of aunts: the evil aunt, the not-related-but also evil aunt and the good aunt. The sullen step-daughter. Everyone has an their own long con...some work out, some do not. Here's a preview:
Aunt Maria: adopts Olympia as a toddler and cons Olympia into making a promise to be her slave for the rest of her natural life.
Elisabeth: plans to sweet-talk her way into marriage to Waldo, even though in the time he's known her, he's been married twice and had one child. She'll go to any lengths, including destroying Ria, all while conveying an air of sweetness and light.
Waldo: 1. Pretends that Ria is his daughter instead of the ill-conceived child of his younger brother. 2. Marries Olympia to take care of Ria and his household, causing her to trade slavery for a gilded cage. 3. Mysterious London connection.
Olympia: Falls in love with her husband and plans to hide it - forever if she must.

Our story opens with Olympia working as a slave...nurse...at Aunt Maria's nursing home. Aunt Maria runs a tight ship, and Olympia is lashed to the helm. Not only does she work there full-time for peanuts, but she has to work split-shifts and be on call every night. No wonder she's skin and bone. Aunt Maria even has her run errands during her "off" hours. Olympia seems doomed to a life of indentured servitude. The only loophole she has managed to negotiate is that she can quit working at the nursing home if and when she gets married. Like that's ever going to happen. The only people she meets are the geriatric patients and their occasional visitors.
Olympia plays a little hooky during her off hours (I'm not sure that doing what you want during your off hours constitutes hooky, but that's how Aunt Maria would see it...). After buying the first white sheets the salesperson shows her at Selfrdiges, she's off to the National Gallery to have a solitary look at the special exhibition. She's got to hot foot it, so as to return before she turns into a pumpkin...SPLAT! Enter Dr. Waldo van der Graaf - as stunning an example of Rich Dutch Docterness as she's never had the pleasure of seeing before. Olympia has done a face plant right at his feet. Shoot, I never catch a break! Dr. Hotty van der Hunkyness dusts her off and convinces her to stay and see the exhibit with him. After establishing the fact that she's not married. And so it begins.
Waldo (which is so not a name that comes to mind when thinking of hunky RDDs) has a knack for putting our girl at ease. He takes her to tea at Fortnum and Mason's and makes her comfy amongst the Givenchy scarves and crocodile handbags. Comfy enough to spill her life story.
Waldo and Olympia share a taxi back to the nursing home where she is dropped off and he rides off, into the sunset...never to be seen again?
Much to Olympia's surprise, Dr. van der Hunkyness is a friend of dear old Dr. Sims who tows him along to the nursing home a couple of days later. Olympia thinks that he's the nicest man she knows.
Waldo now starts dropping by with delightful regularity. His next visit is on the pretext of needing shopping advice - would Olympia come help him pick out a gift for his daughter? His daughter? Dang, he's married. No, no - his wife died a week or two after Ria was born. A fully kitted out dollhouse is chosen by Olympia - because it's something she would have loved as a child. How bleak was her childhood on Primrose Hill Road. It turns out Waldo has come over from Holland just to see Olympia...to offer her a job? He does have that 5 year old daughter - he must need a nanny. Too bad, that won't fulfill the terms of her servitude with Aunt Maria, it's marriage or nothing. Waldo squires Olympia around London for a couple of weeks, then takes her to visit his Aunt Betsy. A majestic and elegant woman, who endearingly confides that she buys her woolies at Marks and Spencer's too. Aunt Betsy leaves them alone for a few minutes so that Waldo can make an offer. Surprisingly, it's an offer of marriage, not a job offer. Olympia is understandably gobsmacked. This would get her away from her dismal life on Primrose Hill Road, but Olympia has qualms. What about the elderlies? Who will get up during the night and take care of them? Waldo promises to find a nurse to replace her.
Meanwhile, Aunt Maria is getting fed up with Olympia having a gentleman caller and tells Olympia that she's going to revoke dating privileges. Not going to happen. Waldo shows up and spikes her guns. Announces the engagement and the replacement nurse and tells Olympia to run and get packed - they're leaving right away! Aunt Maria has no choice...but she spitefully issues dire predictions before washing her hands of her. Olympia shows her backbone and snaps back. I've been working for years for little more than pocket money! Sadly, it only takes Olympia half an hour to pack up all her worldly possessions.
Waldo is appalled at the pittance Aunt Maria paid Olympia. That's hardly enough to keep you in stockings - or is it tights? No wonder you wear that old tweed suit all the time. Never mind the old tweeds now! Waldo has arranged for Olympia to stay with Aunt Betsy and to accept a new wardrobe (to be picked out at Harrod's). Waldo is taking Olympia out to celebrate, so girlfriend gets herself all gussied up. It's worth the effort - Waldo is not a stingy man when it comes to compliments - you look like a princess in a fairy story. Awww. It's time for some family jewels of the sapphire and diamond variety.
Dr. Sims gives away the bride, then it's off to Holland in Waldo's Lamborghini. Home to daughter Ria. Ria who looks at Olympia with unveiled hostility. This sounds like fun. Waldo gives the obligatory house tour and ends with an impersonal kiss and I hope you'll be very happy here.
Well, gosh...now that you put it that way...yup, it's a dawning realization. Too bad love isn't part of the benefits package. There's really not too much time to reflect on her love, before you can say Jack Robinson, in walks trouble. Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with E and that stands for Elisabeth. Trouble all wrapped up in sweetness and light. Courteous, kind, cheerful, she's just like a sister to Waldo. Okay, that's just creepy...remember, she's playing a long con, it's been going on for years now. Elisabeth just comes off as an incredibly helpful friend. She is always stopping by and offering her services. Ria adores her - she's known her for her entire life. So, Elisabeth gets smiles from Ria while Olympia gets scowls, frowns etc...
Elisabeth has spoiled Ria - so Waldo tells Olympia that it's up to her to help change things. Yeah, that's going to go well - discipline a child who dislikes and distrusts you? Olympia takes it on, but she does hand the little brat...er...darling over to daddy to deal with at times. Good for her.
Things are starting to look up - Waldo wants to have a 'chat' about something...but then Elisabeth barges in...natch.
And now the plot thickens. Or the waters are muddied. Or something. Olympia is just conversant enough in Dutch to answer the phone when it rings. RING! The other party is female, English and has a pretty voice. She'd like to speak to the doctor, but on no account should his wife know about the call. Olympia tells Waldo about the call - but although willing, he'd really rather NOT tell her who the phone caller was. Olympia is rightfully miffed.
In the middle of the night, Olympia draws on her 'on call night nurse' background and hears some suspicious noises coming from Ria's room...it's Ria hurling her dinner. And then hurling again. Waldo and Olympia rush her to the hospital where she is whisked into an operating theatre to have her appendix removed. Little Ria is going to be fine - but what's up with Elisabeth? She assumed that at 1am she should have been called to be in on the drama.
Elisabeth is being a busy bee - giving Olympia helpful hints such as not bothering to knit a sweater for Waldo as he hates hand knitted sweaters. Olympia wisely ignores the advice and buys a boatload of yarn and a pattern. Waldo says there's nothing he'd rather wear, then rewards her with a fierce kiss. Editor's Note: I find Waldo's faith in Olympia's knitting ability quite touching. Frankly he's taking a bit of a gamble here - what if the sweater is hideous?

Back home Waldo takes another mysterious call. Olympia overhears, "Don't telephone here anymore...the risk is too great...I don't want my wife to find out." Wow. Just when she's starting to forget about Mysterious Phone Call from London #1. Mysterious Phone Call #2 is even worse. It's quite upsetting for our gal - and it's no wonder she is a little extra friendly to the housemen at the hospital. Waldo chides her a bit for chatting them up.
While Ria has been in hospital, Olympia has used her sewing skills to make a new outfit for Ria's doll. She puts it on a wee hanger and leaves it by Ria's bed - so she'll see it when she gets home...Imagine Olympia's surprise when Elisabeth gives Ria an identical outfit! Oh, Elisabeth, you dirty rat! Olympia puts it down to a cruel coincidence...surely Elisabeth, dear, sweet, Elisabeth wouldn't do something like that on purpose?
If that isn't enough, Waldo gets Mysterious Phone Call #3 and announces that he is going to London the very next day. Olympia wasn't raised by an emotionally distant aunt for nothin'...she knows full well how to hide her feelings. Waldo sort of offers to tell her why he's going (but he'd rather not), Olympia doesn't want him to tell her. She's imagining all the wrong things...and Waldo is as clueless as he is innocent. In a bit of a non-sequitur, Olympia asks him if he had ever been in love with Elisabeth. Good lord, no!
It's just as well, because Olympia is starting to get a bit suspicious of Elisabeth. Elisabeth not only pulled a fast one with the doll clothes, she also was misleading about the sweater issue and now she gives Olympia another bad piece of advice about spring cleaning. Elisabeth also manages to lurk around the house so as to be at hand when Waldo returns gets back from London. Waldo passes right by her and greets his wife first. He hasn't come back alone...he's hauled Aunt Betsy back too! Yay! Aunt Betsy is no fan of Elisabeth's - and the feeling is mutual. Elisabeth makes herself scarce for a few days. But like a bad penny, she turns up...at Olympia's first dinner party. Yes, she is an invited guest, but had it been me, I would have given her a pat on the back...only with my foot instead of my hand, and a few vertebrae lower. She comes in slightly late and proceeds to tear Olympia to ribbons. In a very 'sweet' way.
*How nice you look in the van der Graaf corals...translation: Those corals should be mine! All mine!
*I thought Waldo was never going to give them to you...translation: If I was married to him, he would have given them to me at the wedding.
*It must be difficult for you, learning our way of life...translation: White Trash!!
*Ria is such a naughty girl not to like you...translation: Loser!
The really unpardonable thing about this whole episode is when Waldo takes dear Elisabeth home after the party because she is upset - she always was a sensitive girl.
Grrrr.
Olympia is so incensed she takes off the van der Graaf corals (why couldn't it have been diamonds...or rubies...or sapphires? Coral just doesn't sound as classy) and gives them back. She obviously isn't worthy of them.
Wouldn't you know it, a Mysterious Letter from London shows up in the morning post. Just what she needs!
Aunt Betsy is driven in some state to Schipol - and Ria throws a monster tantrum on the way home. Being a stepmother is just not getting any better. Ria is still resentful and sullen. Editor: In my experience five year olds just don't have that kind of commitment to a grudge, not that kind of attention span. Of course, Elisabeth is whispering sedition at every opportunity.
Waldo clears up a little misunderstanding...Ria doesn't miss her mom - her mom died when she was only a week or two old. Oh, and by the way, he, Waldo, is not her father. He's never told anyone else...Olympia can see that someone else is listening at the door. Waldo walks out, and in walks...yes, it's Elisabeth. She is all sweetness and light. Just thought I'd drop by and take Ria shopping. We'll only be gone a little while.
The little while turns into a long while...Olympia finally puts in a call to Elisabeth's house. Her mum tells her that Elisabeth has gone...wait for it...wait....she's gone to....BELGIUM!!!!!! As we have demonstrated time and again on TUJD, Nothing good comes of rich Americans, skinny finacees or trips to Belgium. Frankly this is the last we'll see of her...but like a bee who has left it's stinger behind, the poison is still pumping. Elisabeth has told Ria the facts of her parentage and told her to run away. Yes, you heard right...she encouraged a five year old child to run away.
Olympia finds Ria... and then they are found by Waldo...who thinks that it was Olympia who did the dirty deed. Why? Elisabeth's stinger. She slapped on the lies with a thick trowel before high-tailing it to Antwerp.
Now is the hour of Olympia's despair. Ria is finally coming around to liking her stepmom, but Waldo doesn't want the recent unpleasantness mentioned - so he is laboring under the misapprehension that Olympia told Ria and caused her to run away. The big problem for him is that in spite of all this, he loves his wife. There's only one thing to do. Take the family to London. Where Ria blurts out the truth to Aunt Betsy.
Best lines in the book:
Him: I deserve to be shot!
Her: Yes you do!
One more mystery to clear up - who is the mysterious woman with the pretty voice? It's none other than Mrs. Doreen Betts. No longer young, dumpy and married. Say what? Mr. and Mrs. Betts are the new caretakers at the nursing home on Primrose Hill Road. Waldo bought out Aunt Maria (who unfairly gets to retire to a villa in Spain, instead of the Black Hole of Calcutta) and has been improving the nursing home - using all of Olympia's ideas.
And now some kissing -a satisfying and lengthy operation. A gleam in Waldo's eye, implied conjugal relations...The End.
Rating: Gosh, this was great. Waldo is charming. He grins, he smiles, he beams. All at Olympia, and all before he knows he's in love. Olympia is pretty great herself. She has been trod upon by Aunt Maria for so long that you could excuse her if she didn't have a spine...but she does. Her spine gets spinier and spinier throughout the book...natural progression. Elisabeth is deliciously evil...she is described as 'a snake in the grass' which sums her up pretty well. Lashings of Whipped Cream.
Food:
Steamed pudding, Gateau St. Honore, a mug of cocoa, Marmite sandwiches, ratatouille, Charlotte Russe, salmon steaks with herb butter, apple pie twice, turbot decorated with lobster coral?
Fashion: Waldo buys our girl THREE coats: cashmere, velvet and mink! Two-year old tweed suit made of a material that refused to wear out, leather gloves, apricot wooly bought at Marks and Spencer, a brown bow to set in front of her bun of hair, red corduroy shirtwaister.

42 comments:

  1. Betty Barbara here--
    Oh, I am so glad that you loved the book as much as I do.
    And I know there was so much goodness that you had to leave out.
    My other two favorite scenes:
    After the awful dinner party, Waldo comes back and says something like--'Surely you didn't let E's remarks upset you?' (Waldo was sooo dense about E) and our Olympia gives him a very sarcastic 'Gee-why ever not?'then sends him away.
    The other scene is further towards the end, where Waldo says 'don't do something stupid, like run away' and Olympia responds with 'I rather think that's what I was supposed to do'. Waldo is once again clueless, but that's okay. And a huge hurray that Olympia didn't beat feet, as so many Neels heroines have done.
    I always go through several tissues when I read this--which makes it the best kind of Neels out there.
    Just love it to pieces (which is why I am on my third copy of the book--I wore out the other two!)

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  2. Betty Barbara again--
    Cross over characters--Serena and Gijs van Amstel from Uncertain Summer. So Olympia had at least one sympathtic woman friend in Holland.

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  3. Another set of cross-over characters are mentioned in the book (though they don't make an appearance) Tabitha and Marius van Beek from Tabitha in Moonlight.

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  4. Sawyer. I thank you for Sawyer.

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  5. This is one of my very favorites as well, along with Fate is Remarkable, Henrietta's Own Castle and the very controversial The Hasty Marriage. Just enjoy every moment each time I read it. Great review!!

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  6. via email:

    Betty Mary here. Do you agree that the cover model for this had to be Donna Reed?
    http://www.imdb.com/media/rm4067983616/nm0001656

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  7. Oh, dear. You like this one.

    *sigh*

    Does anyone (other than me) remember the brouhaha over whether Alexander in A Star Looks Down could be forgiven for banishing Beth after he sees her alone on a sailboat with four children under the age of ten? He gets a mendacious explanation from the eldest child, his nephew, that puts the blame squarely on Beth's shoulders. He asks Beth, but she's so outraged that he didn't believe her that she declines to defend herself. Many Bettys felt his behavior to be unacceptable and unworthy of Beth's forgiveness.

    I argued that those Bettys were wrong, and that they might even be guilty of judging a beloved too harshly without getting all the facts.

    Well, I believe Waldo to be far guiltier than Alexander could ever have been, and guiltier of a worse crime at that. And I'm kind of stunned that I'm the only one who sees that. (Why am I always the sore thumb?)

    Waldo marries Olympia to have a mother for Ria, and she's doing a great job. She patient and loving and she puts up with Ria's petulance. Waldo never intervenes or talks to Ria about her bratty behavior. (Strike 1) Elisabeth tends a pretty active garden of dissension in the household but although Waldo gets evidence of Elisabeth's perfidy, he never asks any pertinent questions -- of anyone. (Srtike 2)

    So when Ria runs away, and Olympia finds her, Waldo allows Elisabeth to tell him such a whopper of a lie that NO ONE who actually loved another could believe it. Basically, Elisabeth accuses Olympia of trying to kill Ria (well, you would not encourage a five-year-old to run out into heavy traffic, so to suggest she make her own way to England is criminal negligence or worse). There's Olympia -- happy, finally, that Ria loves her, and Waldo actually believes this horrific thing about her. (Strike 3, he's out!)

    I don't care that he tells Olympia "I deserve to be shot." True words, but way too late. Where was that degree of self-awareness through the first 178 pages?

    In Alexander's case, he believed the evidence of his eyes as corroborated by his nephew and not refuted by his beloved.

    In Waldo's case, he willfully ignores the evidence of his eyes, declines to ask his daughter what happened, and won't let his beloved explain.

    Seriously -- lashings of cream for this book? Personally, it makes me sick. It really is the worst book in The Canon for me. I empathize with Ria (I was abused at that age and no one paid attention) but I really feel for Olympia, and worry that she's married to a guy who literally would prefer to believe the worst possible crimes about her. (And if he actually believed she would do that, why's he letting her anywhere near his daughter?)

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    1. I'm with you on the low marks, though perhaps for slightly different reasons. The whiplash between believing such a terrible thing of her -- and an act, to boot, over which a Neels hero ought to be up in arms! -- and the growing demonstration of love on the drive to England raised major plausibility issues for me. I also thought the strength of writing around Elisabeth's deviousness far outweighed the sparks/chemistry between the leads, which left the book a bit imbalanced.

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    2. Really dislike any book with a sociopath as a main character. Double dislike when the hero can't recognize the said sociopath

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  8. I didn't rate it so I don't know what my rating would have been (and we don't read each other's books along with, typically) but I don't expect philosophical consistency about fink-ish behavior. Sometimes it'll get a pass because the book is great and sometimes I'll want to plant my flag and die on Deal-breaker Hill.

    I do know there are way worse books in the Canon for me though and not for altogether defensible reasons...

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  9. Let me wade in in defence of Waldo. [Gulp, I know I do this at my own peril] I don't think he really believed all of E's lies, he was just trying to get some kind or reaction from the ever quiet Olympia.

    My frustration lies in the fact that Betty likes her girls to play the martyr (which, let's face it, we've all enjoyed doing at some point). But, she does it beyond the point that most of us would have turned from martyr to righteous B#@ch! I kept hoping for a bit of a scream fest from Olympia - I suspect Waldo was too! Mmmm....implied conjugal make-up relations...

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  10. Betty Barbara here--
    Warning fellow Bettys to get out the popcorn.
    Waldo suffers (badly!!) from Dense Dutch Doctor disease. He was oblivious to the fact that E fancied herself as the next Mrs Waldo, that's for sure. Ergo, it never crossed his mind that E could be poisoning Ria's little mind.
    I can't remember just how much of Ria's acting out Waldo actually sees--not a whole lot is my impression.
    Likewise, I can't remember any scene where Waldo catches E in her bad behavior. Please refresh my memory (and I'm being serious, not snarky). There is the one scene with the doll clothes-is that what you were thinking of?
    Olympia does call him out towards the end. Waldo mentions how nice she's being to Ria now and Olympia counters with something like ' that's a cruel thing to say, after what you've accused me of.'
    So Betty Magdalen--you can read it how you want and I can read it how I want--and I like my version better.
    (I'd stick out my tongue--but that would be too childish!)

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  11. In real life I loathe martyrs (My mom practically has a cross-stitiched sampler saying the same.) but they're a satisfying guilty pleasure for me. (Still, throwing crockery can be satisfying too...)

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  12. First of two comments:

    I was explaining this situation to my husband, and that led me to read to him ALL of the comments made both in condemnation of Alexander and in defense of him. You can find them here. Go read. I'll wait.

    So, first of all, Betty Keira is exactly right. There is no objective truth here. And Betty Barbara is right that we all read things differently.

    Nothing about my thesis is intended to argue that The End of the Rainbow is a bad book (even though I hate it) or that A Star Looks Down is a good book (even though Alexander's behavior kills it for other Bettys).

    I'm just stunned that the vehemence many of you heaped on Alexander's head isn't heaped on Waldo's. Why does Waldo get a pass? I simply can't understand it.

    And I don't even have to wait for Betty JoDee's contribution (as delightfully erudite as they always are) because she presciently acquits Waldo in the middle of her conviction of Alexander.

    Betty JoDee said there:

    Waldo in The End of the Rainbow gets thisclose to crossing the same line, but remember that he had the heretofore trusted adult of Evil Elisabeth who deliberately lied about Olympia’s actions and who had been whispering seditions against her for some time. His realization at the perfidy of his long-time pal and his disloyalty to Olympia is priceless, “I deserve to be shot.” Yes, he does, but he did not deserve to be dumped. Alexander does. Run, girl, run. The love of my life believes me, no matter what—sometimes in a marriage the “no matter what” becomes extremely important.

    In point of fact, Waldo has no "realization" -- he just happens to be standing there when Ria tells the adults that it was Elisabeth who told her to run away. Only then does he say, oh-so-truthfully, that he deserves to be shot.

    The kicker is -- where does Waldo follow Betty JoDee's insistence that "The love of my life believes me, no matter what—sometimes in a marriage the “no matter what” becomes extremely important."

    He never believes Olympia and he always believes Elisabeth. Here are some examples of things that should have served as really-well-aimed kicks in the keister for Waldo:

    Ria's prolonged bad behavior toward, and with, Olympia. On one occasion, she has to hand Ria off to him, that's how far Ria has melted down. That should have prompted his intervention, but it doesn't. (I know "the misunderstanding that could have been cleared up with a single conversation" is a standard in romances, but it rarely involves a 5-year-old. Waldo owed both his daughter and his wife the inquiry into what Ria was going through, at the very least.)

    Even as late as Elisabeth's taking Ria "shopping," Waldo states that Elisabeth is devoted to Ria and knows how to handle her. And he's saying it to be nasty, you can just tell.

    That's even after Elisabeth's been caught out lying (about the sweater -- Olympia tells him that Elisabeth told her not to knit one because he only wears cashmere. "Oh, Elisabeth was mistaken" is a frequent refrain.); showing up Olympia (the doll's dress); and outright rudeness to Olympia in front of their dinner party guests.

    He knows how upset that made Olympia because of the scene when she returns the coral jewelry. Talk about getting hid in the head by the "Clue-by-four"!

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  13. Second of two comments:

    Even after all that, he believes Elisabeth's absurd version of events. Let's see how long it takes him to wake up & smell the truth:

    Immediately after Olympia finds Ria, he says explicitly that Elisabeth would never tell Ria such a cruel tale or cause her distress. He then asks rhetorically how could Olympia do the very thing he's certain Elisabeth couldn't have done, i.e., deliberately tell Ria about her parentage and then lie about having done it.

    Olympia asks -- begs, really -- to be allowed to tell him the truth. (How anti-Beth of her!) But he refuses and further, orders her not to talk to Ria about it. Instead, they're all going to pretend it never happened.

    Olympia thinks Waldo's actually forgiven her for SOMETHING SHE DIDN'T DO -- and she's grateful for that. (And none of this bothers you guys? I'm really surprised by that.)

    He compliments her on how well she's doing with Ria and she (quite properly) challenges that as a sick joke in light of his previous accusations. But does he get it yet? No.

    They travel to London and here's the absolute cherry on top of the lashings of whipped cream: Ria tells Aunt Betsy that it was Elisabeth who put all those nasty ideas in Ria's head. Ria & Aunt Betsy leave, and Waldo says to Olympia:

    Olympia, dear girl, why didn't you tell me?"

    Seriously? You yourself put the gag order on her -- and she did beg to explain! Even then, Olympia tries to take the blame -- she wasn't sure, he wouldn't let her ask Ria -- etc. That's when he admits he deserves to be shot.

    Which is, frankly, a very equivocal confession. He's so guilty at that point that we have a lot of sins to shoot him over:

    - Not being a very good father.
    - Not being a very good husband when he should have stepped up and defended Olympia against Elisabeth's rudeness at the dinner party.
    - Believing Elisabeth was perfect and Olympia was capable of cruelty toward his daughter and then trying to cover it up.
    - Not letting Olympia explain.
    - Not investigating what actually happened.
    - Not letting Olympia talk to Ria about it.

    I could happily shoot him for any of those. Which one do you suppose he was actually owning up for, because a single bullet doesn't cover them all.

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  14. I can agree that Waldo has some major flaws, but I think what helps me get past some (not all) of his flaws is his grand gesture...the nursing home.

    He put a lot of time, thought and money into making it just what Olympia envisioned it should be. That's some serious thoughtfulness.

    *Sure, he's not Father of the Year...or even Guardian of the Year, but I've seen worse (remember the hero with the evil governess in A Girl to Love?)
    *Sure, he should have defended Olympia...but that's a pretty common failing in Neeldom too(remember "she's worth a dozen of you" from The Right Kind of Girl?).
    *Sure, he didn't let Olympia explain...that's pretty darn common too...(The Right Kind of Girl...)
    *Yeah, he didn't let Olympia talk to Ria about it, but we've seen a fair amount of that type of thing too.

    What does that leave? Believing Elisabeth was perfect and Olympia was capable of cruelty and not investigating what actually happened.

    How about we get a double barrel shotgun and fill up the shells with rock salt? It should sting quite a bit...

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  15. Betty Debbie -- He goes to London and buys Ria a fabulous dollhouse. He makes some phone calls and buys Olympia a nursing home.

    So the guy's great at the grand gesture and is willing to spend his money. Sure, I like that in a guy, I won't deny it.

    But I really wish he'd talked to his daughter -- really talked with her -- about why she was upset with Olympia as her step-mother.

    I wish he'd asked himself, "Why's Elisabeth being so nasty to my wife?" and then had a conversation with Elisabeth that suggested strongly that NOW would be a good time to head for Antwerp.

    I wish he'd looked at Olympia and thought, "There is no way this woman would ever do anything to upset my daughter -- that's why I married her and that's what I've fallen in love with. Further, there is no evidence that she did tell Ria. In fact, now that I go over it in my head, Elisabeth was the last person to be in Ria's company. Why am I believing her story when she's already demonstrated herself to be an unreliable source of information?"

    Finally -- and in my mind, most damningly -- he doesn't let Olympia explain. By the "Alexander Principle" as explained by Betty JoDee, he's already GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY just for not believing Olympia, but by the basic tenets of the Anglo-American judicial system ("innocent until proven guilty") he's wrong not to permit her a defense.

    And speaking of defenses, because I agree this guy needs one, how does it help him to show that for each one of his offenses, another RDD did worse? Waldo screwed up in about seven different ways, and so there are other guys who did a couple of those different ways.

    I'm back to my original question. Why does Waldo not kill this book for all the Bettys who insisted that Alexander's actions killed A Star Looks Down for them?

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  16. You are going to catch cold trying to find universal standards of acceptable behavior in my (at least) liking for a book. Heck, in Winter Wedding my hero believes that she's been doping twins. I fully admit that what is loathsome and unacceptable in one hero is practically a virtue for another. (Shrug. Did I just undermine the whole point behind TUJD? Eeek.)

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  17. Betty Keira -- I totally get the bottom line here, which is that we love the books we love in much the way we love specific people: because we just do. That's the whole point behind TUJD, which really is -- by far -- my favorite blog ever.

    If some Bettys hadn't convicted Alexander, I might not have asked all my questions about Waldo. In case it matters, Waldo's not the reason I hate The End of the Rainbow -- I hate it because a five year old girl is used as a weapon by a clearly-unstable individual and none of the adults acts to prevent that. I've been that five-year-old girl, and for a lot longer than Ria has to endure. I know how scarring it can be, and I don't enjoy reading about anything that caustic.

    Which is a reason NO ONE ELSE has. So, I'm not bothered that you all love a book that I hate.

    I'm bothered that Alexander is guilty in the TUJD Court of RDD Law, but Waldo isn't.

    So I really do want an answer to the lesser question of why Waldo gets a pass. Can it simply be the Grand Gesture? Is there something he does (or doesn't do) that makes his actions better than Alexander's?

    Truly -- that's my big question.

    P.S. Take Renier, for example -- he thinks Emily's doped the kids because a) he's infatuated for the moment with Louisa, b) he's faced with clearly doped tykes, and c) Emily has opportunity and motive. He excoriates Emily but when he finds out it was Louisa, he's like "Oh, whatev." Which, in The Great Betty's morality, means he loves Emily and not Louisa.

    I defended Alexander on the grounds that he was faced with prima facie evidence that Beth was on a sailboat with four children in rough weather and without sufficient sailing skills. He might have believed Beth over Dirk provided Beth had proffered an explanation. Which should be the same rage as Renier's in excoriating Emily -- how dare you not be the blissfully perfect woman of my heart that I believed you to be? -- but somehow it's not.

    I can't see the defense for Waldo. That's what I'm asking -- even if it's just a visceral explanation on the basis of he has cute eyes, I really want to know what gets Waldo out of the dock. He doesn't even excoriate Olympia. He indicts, tries, convicts and punishes her all on Elisabeth's word.

    Please, please, please -- explain his appeal to me again, because I'm not getting it.

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  18. Pssst-Betty Magdalen--
    Let me let you in on a secret (shhhh, don't tell Betty JoDee): Some of us were arguing about Alexander just to be arguing. Yes, it's true. And we'll argue about Waldo for the same reason. If we all agreed on everything we would have very dull comment threads(*g*).
    Betty Barbara

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  19. So, Betty Barbara -- If Betty Keira's rock salt gun was put to your head, what would you really say is Waldo's merit?

    Can it possibly be that all it takes is the Grand Gesture that proves he was actually listening to her at the beginning of their relationship, albeit never again?

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  20. For me, while I do love the 'grand gesture' Waldo makes (it's much more than making a phone call or two and whipping out a checkbook...it proves that at least at some point he really really listened to Olympia), I love him so much in the beginning of the book that it helps me get past his pretty glaring flaws.

    I love the way they meet - when he picks her up and dusts her off. That's what he figuratively does again when he rescues her from indentured servitude. He's also so adorable when he's dating Olympia - the grins, the smiles, the beaming...Olympia needs some cheer in her life, and Waldo looks like he can do the job.

    I think he deserves some major props for raising a child that was clearly not his own - to the extent that he was willing to go to the grave letting Ria believe he was her father. He married his dead brother's knocked up girlfriend so as to be able to give the child a name and a home and a future...cut him some slack. For five years he's been a single working father - sure he's not a perfect parent, but who is?

    Ria is only five years old - kids of that age are very often challenged when it comes to articulating a series a events. That's one of the things they are still learning - to put things in the right sequence. I guess what I'm trying (badly) to say, is that grilling Ria about what happened wouldn't guarantee any kind of reasonable answer. I totally buy her blurting it out to Aunt Betsy after she's had a little time to process it.

    Did that help?

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  21. I don't care whether Waldo would have gotten a sensible answer from Ria -- I care that he didn't ask, didn't want to ask, didn't want Olympia to ask, didn't want Olympia to explain. All I can think is that he was so certain Olympia was guilty that the only way he can continue even to look at her is to block the entire event out of his mind.

    Does that sound good to anyone? It doesn't to me.

    In anyone's hands other than The Great Betty, I would think that whatever impulse had inspired Waldo to marry Olympia (because we know it wasn't love) had died at that point. He looks at her and sees not a sensible, caring, infinitely patient stepmother but a monster -- a monster, frankly, much like Renier sees in Emily when faced with two doped-up toddlers.

    Or -- or he doesn't really care about Ria. He's so in love with Olympia yet convinced that she tried to get rid of Ria that it turns out actually to be a projection of his own ambivalence about having Ria as his daughter.

    Nope, I still don't like him.

    See -- here's what I think is going on. I think you guys elide what's on the page with what's in your head. Here's the story you all have in your head:

    Waldo sees Olympia at the museum, and is attracted to her calm, sensible, open-hearted nature. He wants to rescue her, and he wants to keep her with him. Plus, she's obviously a loving, caring person trapped in a nightmare -- who better to have as Ria's stepmother? So he fulfills all those impulses by marrying her. But that doesn't do enough -- let's buy out Aunt Maria too.

    Look darling, what I did for you -- oh noes, did I miss 100 pages? I should be shot. Love me anyway.

    And that's all it takes for Waldo to woo the lot of you: he's charming and he rescues Olympia from the Dickensian horror of Aunt Maria's House o'Slavery. Everything else he does or doesn't do disappears the moment he says "I deserve to be shot."

    But does no one else see how even that Bowdlerized version (because it is *so* not what's on the page) still isn't a portrait of a very nice guy? Where are all those attentive RDD touches? Where's his concern for his wife's well being and happiness? All the work you claim he put in buying the nursing home is more of the mating dance with the pre-marriage Olympia. Why is buying her a life-sized dollhouse but not seeing her when she's been humiliated by Elisabeth okay?

    All I can imagine is that you guys so adore the rescue fantasy that the reality of Olympia's ACTUAL marriage simply gets in the way. After all, no one asks if Prince Charming is a good husband after he marries Cinderella.

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  22. Betty Barbara here--
    Thank you Betty Debbie for articulating so nicely why I love Waldo, even if I consider him one of the Denser of Betty's RDDs. And he was at his densest about Elizabeth.
    Re: grilling Ria--as Debbie said-he won't necessarily get the correct answer. What he might get is what Ria thinks he wants to hear. (And you know this is the real handicap in prosecuting child abuse cases-the reliability of the child witness).
    I always thought of this book as one where the RDD has several Dawning Realizations. There's the one at the beginning when he's dating Olympia and leading up to the proposal. Then there's the one after Ria is rescued when he doesn't listen to Olympia because he's afraid to hear what she has to say and the tiny chance that she will verify E's story terrifies him. He's burying his head in the sand. To me his final, really real DR is when he says "I should be shot".
    Betty Magdalen--this will just have to be one of those where we agree to disagree.
    On a more serious note-if you perceived Ria to be an abused child, then you DO NOT want to read A Girl To Love. Seriously.

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  23. You don't say, "I might not get the answer I want" and then decide not to ask the question. You say, "I might not get the answer I want, but I have to ask the question as fairly as I can."

    What can Waldo fear Olympia is going to say that's worse than what he already believes? That you can even think that is yet more evidence that you've constructed a completely different book than the one that's on the page. Waldo may have rescued Olympia, but he failed her after he got her home.

    You know, don't you, Betty Barbara, that we can agree to disagree, but it's highly suspect when you fail to articulate a principle under which Alexander is worse than Waldo. I'm beginning to think that Alexander's only real sin is that he didn't say, "I deserve to be shot," quite possibly because he didn't.

    Ria's not abused, she's neglected. Waldo foisted her onto Elisabeth pre-Olympia and then foists her onto Olympia and doesn't seem to notice that there's a problem in either situation, not even when Ria acts out.

    Asking your daughter, "What did you and Elisabeth do today" is hardly the same as asking a child, "Did the bad man touch you in your private place". Asking your daughter what she did and who she did it with is just basic Parenting 101.

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  24. Man, what a day for me to be tied up madly cleaning my house (where are those rough-doing-villagers when you need 'em?) before my father- in-law arrived. I've missed all the fun.

    Betty Magdalen, two words: "chamomile tea."

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  25. I think, maybe (and most modestly, Betty Magdalen), that you might be approaching these questions as a writer; used to plotting motivations and logical progressions so that this bugs you more than a 'reader' is bugged by it. (I've read, from more than one source, that once someone becomes a writer they begin to notice things like structure and arguments that they might have missed before.)

    I've noticed how often my reviewing and dissections this year have made me come out of a book with an entirely different initial reaction (based more on the vibe of it and how compelled I was by it) and I'm not really sure which is better in the long run.

    Again (without having read this book this year), I think that those who liked it probably did so for intangible reasons. My book I'm reading this week, The Little Dragon, could be considered detestable by some standards (certainly mine in real life) but I love it. The fellow lies and lies and lies to the heroine. Waldo is a neglectful parent--no one pretends to countenance that in real life--but he gets a pass because Elizabeth is deliciously evil or a lot of Neels' single fathers are middling at best or it's a read that pulls one along or he seems to get the enormity of his dip-stick-ery, etc., etc...

    But (and I can't believe that I, who has devoted every second of free time to this blog for a year and a half, is going to say this), at some point it's all subjective and fluid and, like that bacteria under the fridge, probably wouldn't survive the cold douche of 409 logic.

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  26. Here, Here, Betty Kiera (We must all have Spring Cleaning going on! LOL Not me, Betty Ariel and Betty Megan are doing that brave chore!)

    But ... at some point it's all subjective and fluid and, like that bacteria under the fridge, probably wouldn't survive the cold douche of 409 logic.
    And in REAL LIFE this is true. Now that I'm 50+ I look back at my own 'falling in love' story and I want to say to the younger me: What, Are you NUTS?!!? Most of my family had goofy courtships that were totally illogical to most of the living world.

    The 'being lied to' or finding out your beloved may be engaged to someone else, all happened to me. My prof. got the unfairly judged thing. Other similar stuff happened to most of my sibs. And now when I see it happening to my daughter's, I want to scream STOP. But I don't. Because all these illogical decision, emotional fabrications, and dense behavior make up the foundation that creates each of our HEA's.

    I've been sitting out enjoying the back and forth up 'til now, saving my energy for the coming storm.
    Thanks for the head up on the Little Dragon, Betty Keira. On my way to the stacks to pull that sucker out as we speak. I promise to be fair and balanced in my reading, (HA!) no really.

    I'll need some good reading. On my way to S. Bend to kid-sit for #1 son's family. Serious health stuff going on with DIL.
    Please, if you have a spare prayer this week, can you pray for Starr (my DIL). Can't discuss, but some heart wrenching, life affecting decisions must be made this week. Thanks in advance.
    And Thank you all for the diversion this blog has been for me in this time of more sober discussions. Spring Break Blessings to all.

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  27. Betty Jo Dee, I tried to email you through this site, but it must not have worked.
    I'd still have that bobble head for your little princess.
    If you are a member of Paperbackswap, bookmooch, or bookcrossing, you can send me a PM through any of those. I'm KarmelK on all three.

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  28. Betty Barbara here--
    With her (I sure do hope) final thoughts-which are not about Waldo so much as about the reading experience.
    This book get "lashings of whipped cream" from me because it delivers the goods that I want. I pick this one up when I want an angsty read and it has never failed me. I love Olympia's story-downtrodden, then rescued by this charming RDD. Then she encounters Ria, who won't love her, a husband who is deaf and blind to the evil workings of the 'best friend'. The total injustice of his believing E's story and then the final 'I should be shot'. For some reason it gets me every time! Like I said, I'm on copy number three of End of the Rainbow.

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  29. Betty Barbara, you're on copy number three? Are yours falling apart, too? TEOTR is certainly not the one I've read the most, but it is the only one I have to keep in a baggie to hold together. Did Harlequin stop using equine glue that year or something?

    Betty Mary, I'll find you on paperbackswap. Thanks.

    AND, spring cleaning?!? Bah, more like making a path through each room and scraping petrified toothpaste off the guest bath sink so I'm not mortified with my father-in-law. Betty Magdalen, are sure you still want to visit? *laugh (p.s. I have an idea--I'll e-mail tonight).

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  30. Several cups of chamomile tea later...

    Here's the thing about this. I understand what this book's appeal is all about. HE RESCUES HER. End of fairy tale. (And the "I deserve to be shot" admission makes a nice epilogue.) So I do see what you love about it.

    But I'm not sure any of you have asked yourself what it is I'm seeing. Not that I'm "right" -- as I said at the beginning, it's all subjective -- but that I'm tapping into another perspective from that of this as a fairy tale.

    Or, to put it another way, Olympia isn't Cinderella (i.e., Prince Charming shows up and all is solved) but Jane Eyre (Mr. Rochester shows up, solves one set of problems but creates another set of problems for our heroine).

    And the reason the second scenario speaks to me is that I've been in the position of trying to get people to see the damage a mentally unstable person was inflicting -- and no one wanted to pay attention. That was my childhood.

    And that's this comment thread. I didn't need any of you to slap your forehead, say, "Oh, wow, what was I thinking?!" and cast all three copies of this book into the flames. But I did rather think (hope?) that you could see Olympia's plight as not completely solved by a) being rescued, b) being given a nursing home, and c) being groveled to.

    In other words, I was hoping you'd see that sometimes there's more to a story than what's comfortable/pleasant to see.

    Yes, I rather pounded the table, and that wasn't a very nice thing for me to do. I apologize for that. But Olympia got rescued and then got hurt -- you guys revel in the rescue, and I resonate with the hurt.

    If nothing else, that should tell you a lot about how damaged I am. (There -- and you just thought I was bull-headed. Hah.)

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  31. Betty Magdalen,
    Don't apologize for pounding on the table. If you can't get excited about the Great Betty, what can you get excited about?? Also, I haven't "heard" any other Bettys who can't dish it out!

    P.S. I liked the Little Dragon. Can't wait to be told why I'm nuts!!

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  32. I'm WAY late on this discussion (going on for two years). But a certain amount of "suspension of disbelief" involved in reading anything. Look, if Waldo did all the things right he "should have done", the book would have been a short novella or a really long short story. If this was non-fiction and you were excoriating a real person, that'd be one thing. It might not hurt to step back for a minute and remember that no matter how well drawn they are, they're fictional characters and sometimes fictional characters do things in service of the story that real people wouldn't. YMMV.

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    1. It's never too late. You are right, if all the people in a story always did the right thing there would not be much of a story. And let's not forget that real people are not perfect either and do things they shouldn't all the time.

      Yes, Olympia got rescued - but not transported into to HEA just yet, after all, it was an eMOCee.
      And then Olympia got hurt. – Reminds me of The Right Kind of Girl, another MOC where the hero believed his – er – old vicious-viper-Veronica friend over his wife. (I think he didn't even ask for her version of the story.)

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    2. Betty Janet AOh (TAFKA Janet Lingel Aldrich :))February 15, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      I'm re-reading the book again (just popped up in my library holds).

      It occurred to me, too, that not only are people with issues good at hiding their true natures, there is a quite natural tendency to continue extending trust to someone you've known for a long time and have no reason to doubt.

      Person X, you've known them for a long time (maybe even most of your life). Person Y, not so long. Conflict between person X and person Y -- instinct might cause you to give your trust to the person who's had it the longest. I'm not sure it's completely logical -- that's why I said instinct. Oh, well. JMHO.

      And as far as dealing with an unstable person who's good at covering up (and can be abusive) -- do it every day. That's why I read these books, to get away from it. And there's nothing in this book that makes me see Waldo in that light. Not the fastest on the uptake about human nature? Hmm. Maybe. A bad man? No. Not a chance.

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  33. I went cold when he said, 'I will explain all she needs to know, AND THEN THE ENTIRE MATTER IS TO BE FORGOTTEN.'

    And he acts on this!!!

    Is she to look forward to years of mind control?

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    1. Let me just say this, I am never one to be silenced by words like these. If during an argument someone says to me the matter is closed, they don't want to talk about in anymore, just for the sake of peace, then they are out of luck. There can be no peace until I have had my say. So I will state my case, once again if necessary.

      What I hate most during a three sided argument is the third party clamming up when asked to corroborate my point of view, and I don't even mean "point of view" as in opinion, I mean facts, hard, solid facts. Treason. Hate it.

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  34. Hi I enjoy this site. Thank you! The reviews are well written. This was the first Betty Neels I read at 13. Have. Even been hooked since! I am 55. Thanks

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    1. Welcome Betty Sandra! (I'm partial to Sandras. It was my mother's name.) We hope to see you around the comments sections!

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