Thursday, March 17, 2011

Esmeralda - 1976

Esmeralda is a pretty easy book for me to remember the basic plot.  Girl has gimpy foot, RDD fixes said foot,  HEA. Right? Sort of. 

Esmeralda Jones, 26 (but with an 18 year-old vibe), has had a crushed foot for 23 years. Despite coming from a loving family environment, Esmeralda has pretty low self-esteem. This low self-esteem, coupled with the fact that she is a minor heiress, makes her ripe for the picking. Leslie Chapman (aka Clever Boy), is a Registrar with Harley Street ambitions. He's willing to overlook Esmeralda's 'grotesque' foot in exchange for the wherewithal to make good sooner rather than later.
It's Bring a Friend to Work Day on the children's orthopaedic ward. Mr. Peters brings Mr. Bamstra to take a gander at Esmeralda. Mr. Peters asks her to walk the length of the ward...Mr. Bamstra watches her glide limp towards himself. Turns out he's a wizard with a hammer and the inventor of a new experimental procedure that might, just might, put her foot right. Will she agree to it? Sure, she's got some incentive...Clever Boy has been chatting her up and raising expectations. She'd like to become worthy of him. Ouch. Maybe Leslie will fall in love with her if she has two good feet? Her lack of experience - manwise, stands her in poor stead  - she doesn't know how to tell a toad from a prince. Too bad her nurse friends don't help her out. They know that Clever Boy is only after her money, but they don't feel it's their place to tell Esmeralda about what she's getting herself into. Yes, they've put her in The Cone O' Silence.
Clever Boy offers to take Esmeralda home for the weekend - it gives him an opportunity to case the joint meet her mother and Nanny. Mother is a gracious hostess, but Nanny is not taken in by Clever Boy. She's already met Esmeralda's Mr. Right - Mr. Bamstra! Yes, Nanny and Mother have met him. Like an oak tree in fall, Clever Boys drops clues as to his unsuitability.  Esmeralda is standing knee deep in Clever Boy's droppings(leaves, people, leaves!)...but she's got her lack of self-esteem blinders on. Unfortunately they're attached with super-glue...if she could take them off this is what she'd see:

Clever Boy:
  • bad driver
  • vulgar about money
  • doesn't like animals
  • insincere flatterer
  • Nanny doesn't like him
Mr. Right:
  • good driver
  • likes animals
  • Nanny likes him
Operation!
Off to Holland for her operation. Mr. Bamstra is magician! With just one three-hour surgery he manages to fix her messed up metatarsals and make her foot pretty. When she wakes up in pain, who is it that comes to ease her pain? Mr. Bamstra.  He even goes so far as to bring Mrs. Jones and Nanny over for a post-op visit. They get to stay in his home...evidently to be initiated into the Cone O' Silence Club. Not one word is to be spoken about Mr. Bamstra's home, marital status, possible motive for helping Esmeralda...nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
 Esmeralda does pine for Clever Boy - Why oh why doesn't he write or call or send flowers...wait!  He's here! Yes, Leslie drops by - with his new girlfriend. Ouch. Mr. Bamstra was the orchestrator of this event...not the girlfriend part, just the non-conjugal visit part. Mr. Bamstra practically throws Clever Boy out the door...after a few words in his own language.
Item: one foot, magically transformed.
As Esmeralda sobs, Mr. Bamstra takes advantage of the opportunity to hold her in his arms while she cries it out. 'I don't hold with all this dry-eyed courage - though mind you, you've become quite a watering pot. Whenever I come - the nurses will think that I beat you...call me Thimo'.  The rest of the time spent recuperating in Holland involves physio, trips to visit Adam and Loveday de Wolff van Ozinga(yet MORE conspirators(Cruise to a Wedding)), saving possible drug overdosed women and their newborn babies tea with RDD's mum and temping for Thimo. Same ol', same ol'.
Her burning desire is to see Leslie one more time...wearing a beautiful gown, fancy shoes and dancing. No problem. Thimo can oblige. He's got tickets to a ball in London and would love to take her.

Oh Leslie, go away, do!
The Esmeralda and Thimo Mutual Appreciation Society (membership: 2) clean up real nice. Esmeralda is looking like an enchanting fairy princess...Thimo is equally stunning in white tie and tails. He examines her footwear of choice and approves - with the caveat that 'your foot will give you h*** before the night's out.'
Leslie has been dumped by his non-gimpy girlfriend and is delighted to see Esmeralda. He flashes his boyish charm and expects her to come running on her newly refurbished feet. Too bad for him that his charm is wasted...Esmeralda finally has a Dawning Realization -  and rushes off to find Thimo, the man she really loves. The end.

Rating: I love the idea that Esmeralda is handicapped (or whatever the politically correct term du jour is).  I wish she was a little more plucky about it. She overcomes her limp to the extent that she has an honest to goodness job, but for heavens sake girl, lighten up.  I would like her more if she had the teensiest bit of self confidence...and/or the ability to have a sense of humour about it.  We Hanna Bettys have 2 sisters with foot problems - one wears two different shoe sizes and has to have built up soles (and leg braces to boot!), the other one actually had an amputation...neither one is a beauty, both are married.  Self-pity never really flew in our family - there was always someone else who had it worse than you did.
Thimo wasn't too shabby...except for the Cone O' Silence. Why was it so important that Esmeralda know abso-blooming-lutely NOTHING about him? She doesn't know that he's single until page 113. That seems basic preliminary info - but no, she is not to know that he's available. Argh.
Mrs. Jones was a nicely independent mum. Nanny was outspoken and generous with her cowslip wine. They are conspirators in the Cone O' Silence. Joukvrow Bamstra was lovely (yet another conspiritor!)...all the family retainers were also lovely...Leslie was the only fly in the ointment - and I find I'm not that annoyed with him. Sure, he's a creep, and vulgar about money...but he's fairly consistent. I personally like an earlier dawning realization - rather than 3 pages from the end...however, as soon as girlfriend knows she's in love with Thimo she literally runs to him and tells him. For being an original voice in the canon...boeuf en croute.

 Fashion: Shoes with built-up sole, plaster cast, peignoirs galore. Pink slacks with pink checked blouse and pink hair bow.,  Thimo looking stunning in white tie and tails (and a mysterious medal ribbon around his neck), a lovely creamy Gina Fratini ballgown with green satin ribbons paired with elegant slippers.
Food: Kebabs, raised pie, potato salad, a leathery omelette, iced soup, cheese souffle, ice pudding with whipped cream, rusks and yoghurts, cheese sandwiches, blancmange, cold fish pâté (??), guinea fowl stuffed with foi gras, delicately flavoured sorbet.