Monday, September 19, 2011

Damsel In Green--Reprise

I love to loll about in the sheer Christmas-y-ness of this one.  Green dresses, convivial family, home sung carols...I suppose if it were an American scene, all that would be missing is a Norman Rockwell-ian rosy-cheeked Saint Nick peeking from behind the curtains.  
And this reprise is coming at just the right time for me.  I have to begin getting up in the near-dark to get the kids ready for a rainy walk to the bus stop.  I need the kind of cheerful spin on rotten weather that The Great Betty can be so marvelous at.  So, curl yourself into a deep chair, heat up some apple cider and dig in...
Betty Keira

The Return of the Half-Dutch!!! An entire family of half-Dutch - including the hero this time. At least I'm pretty sure they're all half Dutch...the family tree explanation could have used a bit more exposition, but when you have a seven year old boy doing the explaining, you're lucky if anything is coherent.

The romance in Damsel in Green is pretty subtle...for me, this book was all about the Van den Berg Eyffert family (which I always read as Vandenberg Airforce Base). Betty gives us a rare glimpse into the hero's entire family. And it's a big one.
Georgina Rodman, age 23, has recently passed her State Examination to become a Staff Nurse. Everyone calls her George (I would too. I once knew a woman that we called George. Her real name was Kay - her nickname had to do with what she looked like without her wig on, but I digress). I can't quite decide what her type is, so I guess I'll peg her as an Outlier. She's medium height, good-looking (but not pretty), long, fine, silky light brown hair...and a little plump. Her hair sounds like the kind that is constantly getting static. She was orphaned at age 9 (parents died of the flu - not an auto accident!) and spends her off-duty at polio stricken Great Aunt Polly's house...somewhere near Thaxted.

Julius Van den Berg Eyffert (33) is some sort of Professor/Doctor, but we never really find out what he specializes in - which is unusual. If I followed the family tree correctly, his father was Dutch and his mother was English. We meet him fairly early on in Cas because three of his young cousins were involved in an RTA. As his 7 year old cousin/ward Cornelius explains, there are 5 of them (cousin/wards)...and during the course of the book we get to know all of them.
The Story:
We are first introduced to Cor (Cornelius), Beatrix and Karel. Cor has suffered two broken legs, Beatrix has a possible concussion and needs a few stitches and Karel has a problem with his collarbone (evidently not too much of a problem as it is never mentioned again). Cousin Julius shows up and for a brief moment it seems as if this is a troubled family...Nope, they are truly a happy family. Despite the fact that between the six of them they have managed to lose five (5!) parents. And that doesn't count George's lost parents(totting up sums, that makes seven dead parents). It's risky to be a parent in Neeldom!

Julius plans to take Cor back to the family home (Dalmers Place ) near Debden (sounds like something you'd call my office: Deb's Den) which is only a hop, skip and a jump from Thaxted. They will need a nurse and George is just the nurse they want. She reluctantly agrees to go...even more reluctantly when Julius tells her that she is to wear her nurses uniform at all times when she is on duty...which you know will be practically all the time. She is even to wear it to meals. George asks, " May I know why - I mean about the uniform?" "No, you may not," he said blandly. George rides to Dalmers Place in the ambulance with Cor...then helps with the setting up of the Balkan Frame. For most of the rest of the book much of the "action" takes place around the Balkan Frame. Let's take a minute or two to become acquainted with the other inmates of Dalmers Place.

Karel: age 22. Currently attending Cambridge, but comes home for holidays and the odd weekend. He is half brother to Dimphena, Franz, Cornelius and Beatrix. Julius is his cousin. He does come on to George a little bit - in a puppyish sort of way.
Dimphena (also referred to as Phena): age 16. Has recently left school in preparation to going to what sounds like finishing school in Switzerland. Loves clothes, is helpful with little sister Beatrix. For a Christmas party she wears a pink velvet trouser suit.
Franz: age 12. Rides his bike to a nearby day school - because his father was Dutch and they don't believe in boarding school. He occasionally sits with Cor and does jigsaw puzzles. He plans to go to Cambridge when he's older.
Cornelius (aka Cor): age 7. He of the Balkan Frame. Despite the fact that he's a bed-bound 7 year old, he is surprisingly (and unrealistically) good-natured about it.
Beatrix: age 5ish. I didn't notice her age being given, but we do know that she's younger than Cornelius. She has an adorable bedroom and calls the dog Robby and the cats her "nightlights" because they lay on her bed when Cousin Julius isn't home...and their eyes glow. Editors Note: This is obviously fiction, because any 5 year old I've ever met would be scared of eyes that glow in the dark.

I think the most surprising thing for me about Damsel in Green is La Neels consistency in using the supporting characters. Even the couple who live in the teeny-tiny gatehouse, Mr. and Mrs. Legg, are given more than one glance.

Okay, okay, back to the story. George spends lots and lots of time caring for Cor and entertaining him and little sister Beatrix - around the Balkan Frame. She even goes so far as to let Beatrix accompany her on her afternoon walks...thus gleaning little nuggets about Cousin Julius. Christmas is closing in, so she and the kiddies (along with Dimphena and possibly Franz) spend weeks making Christmas decorations and hand painting cards - around the Balkan Frame. Query: Does anyone actually paint their own Christmas cards?? Even though this is evidently a posh house, all of their decorations are new and handmade. The boys insist that balloons are part of this decor. Balloons? Whatever.

George takes a day off and drives up to London to go Shopping. She buys herself a dark green velvet dress - with a white clerical collar and organdie cuffs. I keep trying to make this sound "come hither" and fail. She wears it to the Christmas party - after first showing seven year old Cor who remarks; "George, you're a smasher - Cor love a duck!" George reproves him - "...where did you learn that vulgar term?" He looked innocent. "Vulgar? Mr. Legg often says it."

She spoils much of the evening for herself by wearing her mother's rose diamond ring and letting everyone think she is engaged. Quite a silly thing to do...and Julius calls her on it before the evening is over. They end the evening drinking Damsel in Green...a Dutch liqueur. Julius pays George a compliment, "...You're a damsel, aren't you? And you're in green...and just as heady as the liqueur." Soon after this Julius has a conversation with her about his family. He asks her how she feels about her "job". "...I'm very fond of Cor and Beatrix - and Franz and Dimphena..." she says. He says, "You forgot Karel." "Karel? Oh, yes, They're like brothers and sisters." That's just what Julius wants to hear... As George heads out of the office Julius kisses her "without haste". She still hadn't found her tongue (I'm sure that doesn't mean what it sounds like) when he remarked "Your uniform isn't enough." He sounded resigned. You see...He wanted her in her uniform so that he wouldn't be too tempted to kiss her unexpectedly. I guess. George and Julius go to church together in the morning - in the Mini.

Since they're half-Dutch, it's time for some to-ing and fro-ing. As soon as Cor gets his casts off - no more Balkan Frame - they all pack up for a trip to the family home in Holland. This house is named Bergenstijn (hopefully not Dutch for B*** House). It's lovely and grand...lots of family come to visit and give George a bit of a once over. We get the BEST EVER (well, really it's the worst) name for girl - one of the maids is named...Pancratiana...and they call her Pankie for short(it just sounds like a disease -pancreatitis). George tells Julius that she's accepted a post as Night Sister in Casualty (after all, this job is just about over, and a girl needs to look to her future) she exclaims "It's - it's what I've always wanted!" So of course Julius has to invite Madame Defarge to the family gathering...a beautiful youngish widow, thin as a wand, who wears a silver trouser suit. Actually her name is Madame LeFabre but I always read it 'Defarge' evil villainess is pretty much the same as another -right? Her main contribution to the story is to pretend that Julius said it was okay for George and Beatrix to go skating...which is what they do and then NEARLY DIE!! Julius has a typically Neels reaction...he gets mad at George - George swears the kids to secrecy about Madame Defarge...but then...(remember, these kids are only 1/2 English)...the Dutch half spill the beans! Kiss kiss. I've been in love with you since we first met, but I had to be fair; I had to give you a chance to see what life with me would be like. You had to decide for yourself if you could be happy with my fabulous lifestyle and a ready made family of 4 partly grown kids (I guess Karel doesn't count). Well of course I could be happy with your fabulous lifestyle and the remarkably un-angsty kids, kiss kiss, The End.

Food: prawn cocktail, roast gosling, chocolate mousse, zambaglione, little bouchees filled with smoked salmon, haricots verts (?), potatoes noisettes.

Fashion: Savile Row tweeds, a delicious milk chocolate organza dress, deep orange sweater with elderly slacks, corduroy coat, cherry red dress (Beatrix).

Literature: George spends a lot of time reading aloud to the kiddies. She reads Faithful John, The Rose and the Ring by Thackery, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter, and The Wind in the Willows.

Automobiles: Rolls Royce Silver Shadow Drophead Coupe, dark blue Aston-Martin, Mini

Fun Quote: "Your bosom is heaving too - so many girls don't have bosoms these days. I suppose it's the fashion." He sighed.

Rating: For sheer commitedness to an entire family I would dearly love to give this one a full lashings of whipped cream...but, sadly George just doesn't quite work for me. She's just a little too compliant...she's the one to tuck in everyone's children while the rest of the adults are whooping it up, watches the babies while the rest of the adults have tea and conversation, play games with the kiddies while rest of the adults pretty much ignore the children...I guess she's just a little too self-sacrificing for my taste. Sure, she gets a handsome,rich family man in the end, but she doesn't have a lot of fun getting there (the closest thing to a date she has is staying up late after the Christmas party and going ice skating - before the almost dying thing). I do like Julius - he mostly plays fair by her - gives her a chance to get to know the whole sitch and only occasionally waylays her with kisses (Question: Is kissing your employee without asking ethical? It seems not.) I think I'll have to settle for Boeuf en Croute on the strength of the sheer homeyness of the story.

Cross Over Characters: Yes! If you want to visit Dalmer's Place and company, you can find them all(plus a baby, 5 years later) in A Small Slice of Summer (not a favorite of mine -the heroine is called "Tishy").


  1. Dear Betty Keira,
    On page 31 of my M&B Collector's Edition Ned, the Casualty Officer, after being asked repeatedly "Who is he?" informs George (and us). And we learn that the Dutch Professor Julius van den Berg Eyffert specializes in ANAESTHETICS.
    I adore your blog.Keep up the good work.
    Betty Anonymous from Germany

  2. I like this story. At least Julius has a reason for not sweeping George off her feet immediately, and I love the fact that in spite of, or perhaps because of, losing all those assorted parents, they're really very devoted to each other. :-) I think George has one of the better chances for an HEA in Neeldom.

  3. Yes, she does. Although I haven't read Damsel in Green yet, I did read the "continuation" in Small Slice of Summer.

  4. Okay, I finally finished my reread. I liked it a lot. It was long but when you like a bunch of people you don't mind hanging out with them.

    Julius was pretty much perfect in my book until he took a jump off stupidity mountain. What the heck was he thinking, first to believe George's mournful NURSING IS MY LIFE baloney. Anyone who is that ate up with her career would not go off to wilds of Deb's den for months. ( That's near my cousin. Which ones my cousin? Thax Ted).
    And then to invite a women you told your teen ward that you were done with! It's dangerous to lie to 16 year olds. Take it from a lady who's now raising #6.
    But the story did need a little drama, so we get Wanda-thin (oh wait that was the last book, send Wanda back to Timmy and Cosmo).
    Anti-Saint Therese and her LIES, VILE LIES.
    Why would the guy who sighs about heaving bosoms give this chick a second chance so she can kill his Darling Girls. But just in time he shows up. Was the lunch with Wanda-thin a lie too. We never find out how he was able to get there JUST IN THE NICK.
    Any way, I liked it, I really really liked it.

  5. Like this book, love the convivial family... oddly when I imagine Dahlmers Place in this (very wintery) it looks completely different than Dahlmers Place in Slice of Summer. Can't imagine them as the same house... weird, I know, and evidently no cure.

    Haricot Verts -- green beans!!!!!! XO Betty Ilana

  6. Funny review
    I liked this book, George was bit overly compliant but Neelsdom repeatedly shows that primary child care, nursing, tour guiding, master chefing, translation and clerical work are all really the same job. Cinder-f'ing-ella duty.

    I do love how George gets to have Julius and Karel panting after her. Love jealousy in the main hero, especially when there is a true rival (boyish) attraction. This is much better rather a standard 'oh, that other boy really only dated boring me because he has a pretty fiance in New Zealand/Timbuktu to talk about'.

    But this book is cringeworthy when Georgina wears her Nana's ring and implies that she is engaged. It's the mortification I can't get over and that Julius knows she pretended. I get cold shivers imaging him holding it over her at twentieth anniversary parties.

    Giggling also at the thought that one day a Neel's heroine suddenly stands up for herself and files an expensive harassment suit for inappropriate relations in the workplace and the abuse of employer/employee relations. Finally heroine wins large settlement and ends up in a cougar marriage. Betty Blaze
    Betty Anhk

  7. I really, really love this book. I think George is adorable from start to finish and have no qualms about Julius falling from the moment he saw her taking care of his baby cousin. And Julius....(fanning myself)....tries hard to play by the rules. He doesn't sweep her off her feet without giving her the chance to see what she is taking on--a man of integrity.

    I love the part about wearing her uniform. Very plausible why she doesn't understand (and the reader has to catch on as well). Remember that she works like a dog because she is being paid as a nurse--wearing uniform--and much of the work is self-imposed. Julius tries to get her free time to no avail from her part because they are already functioning as a family (translate: mother figure gets no uninterrupted potty breaks--oops, I just channeled my own life...).

    I read A Small Slice of Summer, aka My Malibu Barbie Summer before I had read this one. So much more fun reading them back-to-back. Except Beatrix, for being around five years old in DIG, seems to have disappeared from the daily life of the family by ASSofS--the English half must have sent the Dutch half to boarding school.

    Lashings of whipped cream from me....(whipped cream and Julius....uh, nevermind).

    1. Betty JoDee, when reading your comment yesterday I couldn't believe that little Beatrix had been missing from the Van-den-Berg Bunch in A Small Slice of Summer, so when I returned home I picked up my copy of it and checked at the most likely places: Dalmers Place (George's birthday party) and Bergenstijn (the family vacation) and found Beatrix on several pages (hope I have memorized them correctly): 94, 99, 101, 109, 169 (M&B Collector's Edition, 220 pages). I stopped after finding her on page 169. It has to be said, though, that whatever she had to say was not for us to read.
      Betty Anonymous

    2. What is missing in my copy is the y in van den Berg Eyffert. It is Effert in A Small Slice of Summer.
      Betty Anonymous

  8. A lovely story, which I read after "Small Slice of Summer" which, color me Party of One, but I *adored*!
    even more than DIG.

    1. That'll be Party of Two.
      Betty Anonymous

    2. Party of Three. I actually chose Small Slice as my BIL's entree to the World of Betty (and, he assures, his exit as well -- didn't hate it, but doesn't feel a need to re-read it 134 times).

  9. I loved this book -- you're all calling them something tied to the Brady Bunch, but when George got the piano and they were all singing, I expected her to tear down the curtains and make matching outfits -- they were a lot more Von Trapp than Brady, IMHO.

    George was a little dense for me when it came to Julius. Then again, I probably would have been likewise at 23. :) I had no trouble with her willingness to serve -- some people have a servant's heart and some don't. George did.

    The scene in Holland when she made the rounds of the kids with Julius was like a little foretaste of their life together. Found it lovely.

    Since I can never remember the rankings here at TUJD, I'll just say it's one of my favorites and one I can go back and reread often.

  10. Book Rating — if in doubt, there is a tab at the top of the page.

    And besides that we have Betty van den Betsy's post:
    Betty by the Numbers: The Founding Bettys’ Ratings.

    My own ratings read exactly like yours, "It's one of my (top) favourites."