Thursday, October 28, 2010

When Two Paths Meet - 1988

I thought I remembered this book quite well. I did have most of the plot down pat - but I didn't remember loving this one. Why didn't I love it? The question bothered me until about 2/3 of the way through...then I knew. It's a 600 pound gorilla.

In the pre-dawn chill a knock sounds at the door...Katherine Marsh hops out of bed and tiptoes downstairs so as not to wake the household. A good-looking stranger urgently requests entry, as he has just found a newborn baby beside the road. Man with baby? Check. Dawning Realization? Check. Dr. Fitzroy asks that Katherine accompany him to the hospital so that she can hold the baby...Katherine is happy to help out (although sister-in-law Joyce is NOT), even happier that instead of being forgotten at the hospital as she expected, Dr. Fitzroy has arranged for her to have breakfast in the canteen. When he takes her home she shakes his hand goodbye and 'looked up into his face learning it by heart...memory was all she would have.'

Katherine lives with older brother Henry and his wife Joyce. They are a delightful couple. Psych! Not really. Henry is a schoolmaster...which hardly bodes well for the youngsters in his care. I find myself wondering what kind of school he teaches at...and can only imagine some horrible Dickensian boarding school and Henry a close runner-up to Wackford Squeers. Alas, the only thing we really know about Henry is that he is pompous, selfish, self-absorbed, doesn't care for his own children...which is where the redoubtable Mr. Squeers has him beat. Mr. Squeers at least likes his kids. Joyce is very busy with her own social life to have any time for her kids either. If ever there was a couple who shouldn't have had kids, it's these two.
Dr. Fitzroy shows up with a job offer! Poor Joyce and Henry aren't given any choice in the two weeks notice to find a new slave. Katherine is going to be trading her job of taking care of two ill-behaved children for a job taking care of a peppery old man and his wife. The new jobs pays 40 pounds a week, which is more money than Katherine has had in her pocket in maybe forever. One of the perks of the job is that Dr. Fitzroy drops by a couple of times a week to check up on Mr. Graingers dickey heart. A job that actually pays AND the chance to see her true love twice a week? You betcha. Henry turns puce when he finds out that she's taking the job...'You ungrateful sister! I've given you a home and food and clothes...' 'And look what you've gotten in return - unpaid housework, a nanny and you haven't even given me an allowance.' Good for her. I really like Katherine when she's in this mode...not so much when she wastes sympathy on Henry and Joyce (but no sympathy on the children...who deserve it more).
The Graingers are nice to work for - there's just one fly in the ointment. Granddaughter Dodie. The 600 pound gorilla. Dodie spends the book being rude, caustic, thoughtless, selfish, etc. She is, in a way, refreshingly forthright - she's not two-faced at all. The reason I don't care for her plot line is the inexplicableness of La Neels having Dr. Fitzroy spend soooo much time with The Dread Dodie. He also suggests to Katherine that The Dread Dodie could give her fashion advice. Umm. No thanks. Dr. Fitzroy is startled to see a look of such rage that he blinks. No way girlfriend is going to take fashion advice from the enemy...because that's just what The Dread Dodie is - the enemy. Both girls know it instinctively.
Dodie conspires with a relative to shift the Graingers to Cheltenham for a spell. Even though Mr. and Mrs. Grainger like Katherine a lot, they sashay off to Dodieland with nary a backward glance. This means that Katherine is out of a job. Dr. Fitzroy steps into the breach and gets her another job...nurses aide at the hospital. Yay! Bedbathing old men and emptying bedpans. She does make more money...enough to rent a room from Mrs. Potts. Her independence is growing by leaps and bounds...and now that she's working at the hospital, there's a chance every day to see Dr. Fitzroy. The best thing about the job change (besides seeing Dr. Fitzroy more often), is that Katherine finally gets to make friends with girls her own age - Miranda 'call me Andy', another nurses aide, and a girl at Mrs. Potts.

Dr. Fitzroy's younger cousin, Edward comes for a visit. He would be an ideal brother, says Katherine - over and over and over again. Seriously...Katherine loses no opportunity to let the good doctor know that she has no romantic feeling for the guy. Especially after Edward asks her out and Dr. Fitzroy goes strangely avuncular. Lots of fun to be had with Edward and Jason (yes, Jason). Hot cocoa around the fire after the midnight Christmas service, invitation to a New Year's Eve party at Jason's, teaching Katherine how to play poker and a day out walking through the snow at Stourhead, where once again Katherine tells Jason how sisterly she feels toward Edward. Maybe that's what tips the scales for Jason, but at any rate, he takes advantage of Edward's brief absence to propose. Yup. Right out of the blue. Since everyone has told Katherine that he's supposed to be marrying Dodie, she turns him down. And then kicks herself for it. The Dread Dodie would be an awful wife for Jason. Too bad Katherine blew her one and only chance. Did I say one and only chance? Jason is delightfully persistent - he brings up the subject of proposing with great regularity. If only he would stop going out with Dodie - which he does with great regularity. Oh, and if he would preface his proposal with an 'I love you', that would also help out a great deal.
Henry tracks down Katherine and persuades the Matron that Katherine is needed back at Casa Marsh to care for his ailing wife. Let's all join with Henry in shedding a few crocodile tears. Of course Joyce isn't sick, and Katherine is sure of it - especially when Henry smirks at her behind Matron's she leaves a message with Andy for 'anyone who asks' about her whereabouts. Who's going to ask? Jason sees her entering a car and tracks down Andy to see what's what. What's up is that Joyce has gone out for drinks at the pub and left Katherine with her offspring. Jason shows up after dinner and Katherine falls weeping on his lapels.
Her: Jason, oh Jason! Take me away!
Him: Sorry I couldn't come sooner, I had outpatient's.
He makes amends by taking her back to his place for a much needed dinner. Some cards are laid on the table...hers. He knows she loves him, and gets her to admit it...before proposing again. Her walls are crumbling, she's just about to tell him 'yes' the next day when she hears that The Dread Dodie is engaged to someone else!! Instead of being thrilled, she's now sure that it's a rebound proposal. Katherine refuses one last time...muddied waters are cleaned up...I've loved you since I first saw you in that old dressing gown. I've loved you since you told them to give me a good breakfast. Kiss kiss. The End.

Rating: There's loads to love about this book...unfortunately, there's a 600 pound gorilla named Dodie in the room. Dodie is remarkably straightforward in her hatred of Katherine - and I don't have a problem with that, it's the fact that Jason keeps going out with her and sort of throwing her in Katherine's face. Drives me crazy. Queen of Puddings...unfortunately garnished with a tin of Dodie soup.
Fashion: a wardrobe bought one item at a time each payday. Week 1 - undies. Week 2 - suitable grey dress. Week 3 - a raincoat bought at Woolworth's. Week 4 - A warm and pretty dressing gown and cozy slippers. Week 5 - Winter coat in an unassuming peat brown cloth. New Year's Eve party dress - grey taffeta with a square neck and elbow length sleeve that make her look like a nun at the circus.
Food: Hospital canteen Breakfast O' Love of cornflakes, eggs and bacon, toast, butter and marmalade. Minute steaks, trifle, cheese souffle, egg custard, prawn cocktails, steak and kidney pudding, apple tart AND apple pie, boiled beef and dumplings, boiled ham and parsley sauce (?).


  1. 'looked up into his face learning it by heart...memory was all she would have.'

    Why am I thinking of that line in Sleepless in Seattle/An Affair to Remember? 'Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories..."

  2. Betty Barbara here--
    I have to agree with your review, except I do believe I was a bit harsher on our RBD re: Dodie. His remark, just after he made one of his off-hand proposals to Katie, that he's taking Dodie to dinner "to keep his hand in"... Argh!! But I also thought her assumption that he proposed (the last time) as an act of rebound was a bit off--after all, he had been proposing to her well before Dodie got engaged.
    But I quite loved Katie--lots of spunk and not a total doormat where Henry was concerned.

    And of course our RBD suffered from a strain of the Dense Doctor Disease--the proposing without saying 'I love you' first variant. Which is a version of the "tell everyone and his brother (including our poor heroine)that you are getting married, without telling the girl that she is the object of your matrimonial plans" disease.

  3. Oh, Betty Barbara! I just love those diseases. I think I see another Classic TUJD-ism hatching!

  4. Here I am, trying again to comment :) I thought Joyce was one of those mean family members destined for the Meanie Hall of Fame. Not a great Neels for me: the heroine was too in the dark for too long for me to really enjoy it.

  5. Well, I wasn't nearly as bothered by Dodie as I have been by other exemplars of Cattus Veronica. There's an effort right at the end where The Great Betty has Mrs. Grainger explain that Jason was taking Dodie (and really, the name was just desserts in itself) out as an older brother.

    My problems are two-fold. First, there's just a bit too much of The Little Match Girl. Grow a backbone already. And why not at least ask Jason a few well-phrased questions when he proposes the first / second / third / fourth time? If he's got Dense Doctor Disease, she's got Silly Chit Syndrome.

    Second, we're expected to believe that he's fallen just as hard for her as she has for him from the very beginning. Even allowing for him having OD'd on Botox (Katherine reflects crossly that "she'd never known a man who could look so bland."), you'd think he would show some signs of romantic life before page 170.

  6. I didn't mind this book. Just finished a reread of this. I thought that he was laughing at her from the first "Will you marry me, Katie?" and she just didn't get it... She's not that bright in this - Clearly he's seriously in love with the woman and she has NO clue, but I think Unlike most of the RDD he's pretty damned OBVIOUS -He's pretty clear he wants to marry her from the 1st proposal and he pretty much is all over her from that point on (As much as La Neels allows anyways :) ) - Dodie was pretty hilarious in her very RUDE comments (I can't believe some of the comments she made) -but you'd think Katherine would have seen that Dr. Fitzroy would never marry someone that rude!

  7. Hello there in Basingstoke Hampshire

    1. Hello there Basingstoke in Neelsdom.
      Silly me, I'm afraid I don't follow your line of thinking. Care to explain?

    2. I saw the name of your town pop up on the "Conquering the World" widget, so I said "Hi". It's a Texas thing, we are loud and overly friendly.

    3. What's this "we," kimosabe? *laugh (I actually had to look up the spelling....)

    4. It's not my town, but what a nice thing to do. I hope the lady in Basingstoke read your message.

  8. He is surely one of the most loving of the heroes? The ending is at least ten pages long and I'm sure there is one ending I've read which was more like ten lines - certainly entirely WITHIN the final half page . . .

  9. I'm with Magdalen on this one. Seriously, how hard is this:

    Him: Will you marry me? By the way, I'm taking your archnemesis Dodie out for a delightful dinner and dancing tonight, assuming I can get all 600 pounds of her onto the dance floor.
    Her: Why are you still going out with her if you want to marry me? Get a brain! Why do you think I haven't said yes?!?

    See? Not too hard.

    1. I think it is she who is brainless.
      Him: Will you marry me?
      Brainless Her: You are marrying Dodie la Veronica.
      Him: You have heard that. So you think I should marry Dodie a.s.a.p.?
      Brainless Her (unaware of the misery in her eyes): Oh, yes—she's very pretty.
      Him: That's a flimsy excuse for marriage. But I promise you I'll give it my earnest consideration.

      He reads her very well, she's completely blind and doesn't pick up on any clues.

      I still like your dialogue better than mine. Rats.

  10. I recently reread this one, and couldn't make heads or tails of it. The big sticking point for me is constantly asking Katie to marry him, while constantly taking Dodie out. What on earth was he thinking???? It would be close to the bottom of the Betty pile for me.

  11. She got into bed, planning what she would buy; clothes which would make Dr Fitzroy look at her twice. She was just dropping off on her hopeful thought when Mr Grainger rang. He couldn't sleep, he complained, and would she get him a drink? Ovaltine or Bengers...
    Betty Anonymous