Monday, January 30, 2012

Paradise for Two--Reprise

We American Bettys are deep in the throes of election season.  (Never fear, Bettys!  I approached the dangerous shoals of political discord only to paddle away like madly!) And there's a term that gets tossed around that reminded me a little of The Great Betty:

Dog-whistle politics, also known as the use of code words, is a type of political campaigning or speechmaking which employs coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has a different or more specific meaning for a targeted subgroup of the audience.  The term is an analogy to dog whistles, which are built in such a way that the high-frequency whistle is heard by dogs, but appears silent to human hearing. 
And that's just what The Great Betty uses when she tells us things about heroines (Tell me that loving cats is not code for "heart of gold".), heroes (If he scribbles his prescriptions in an appalling scrawl, he's sure to be a reliable husband with a penchant for draping deep-bosom-ed British nurses with the family sapphires.), and fink-y ancillary characters (If any man takes a woman anywhere near a Chinese restaurant, he is not to be trusted.).
Dog whistles all.  And we're her base, reading all the right signals.
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira

Prudence Makepeace...I have to say that I love, love, love her name. And that's about as far as my love for this character goes for the first 60 pages. She is described as "a nice girl" and "good natured"...but heaven knows she isn't - at least whenever Haso ter Brons Huizinga is around. They get off on the wrong foot and Prudence spends lots of time being "chilly", "snappy", "pointed", "cross", "tart", "annoyed"... So much so, that I feel, snappy, cross, get the idea.
Prudence, an Olivia (tall shapely redhead) if ever there was one, has been a nurse at a London hospital, but has recently quit in order to apply for a job in Scotland. Why Scotland? To get her far away from Walter. She finds that she doesn't love Walter, and never has (a junior executive stockbroker who considers himself somewhat of an expert on "Modern Art"...which is just as bad, if not worse than a junior doctor who takes one out for Chinese food). Her Aunt Beatrix (who I am delightedly going to call "Aunt Bea") invites her to go to Holland with her for a few weeks. Aunt Bea is not really her aunt, Prudence tells Walter, she a "courtesy aunt" - she's Prudence's godmother and good friend to her real Aunt Maud. Prudence isn't too sure she wants to go, so Aunt Bea throws down her trump card...she's an unstable diabetic - and she's going to visit her sister who has been in the hospital with heart trouble. *WARNING* *WARNING* Many hours of unpaid nursing ahead. Off to Holland they go...with Aunt Bea and her mountain of luggage, including a trunk that takes 2 men to carry it. No, they don't drive, they FLY. Can you imagine the extra luggage costs? I can't.
At Aunt Emma's house (which is described as "massive" - so obviously the RDD doesn't live here), Prudence runs into a man she assumes is the gardener. Nope. She sees him a few minutes later (with clean hands, this time) up in Aunt Emma's room - where he is formally introduced as her nephew Haso ter Brons Huizinga. She speaks sharply to him, he's mildly insulting to her.....and we're off! Off on the wrong foot, that is. They never seem to be able to have a civil conversation...Prudence always has her daggers drawn. We find out pretty early on that he is only 33 years old to her 25 - amazingly close in age for Neeldom. They seem doomed to eternal bickering until Aunt Bea obliges them by sneaking a bunch of chocolates and going into a diabetic coma. Then they get to spend the night together while she is wearing a lovely crêpe-de-Chìne dressing gown with matching nightie and satin slippers. This dressing gown gets a fair amount of mileage in the book, so get used to it. Aunt Bea pulls out of the diabetic coma and promises to do better...Prudence gets an afternoon off (remember, she's not getting paid...)so Haso hijacks her and takes her to his fairytale castle of a home. The gardens and grounds are well they should be. Haso's mum adores gardening. She is to be found pruning roses in the greenhouse while listening to the radio (Haso's mum evidently lives with him...which fact is never really stressed). Another trip to visit her, this time with the aunts...while the old ladies have a cozy chat, Prudence is allowed off her leash to roam the gardens. She discovers a swimming pool nicely screened by trees. While sitting in this "Paradise for Two" who should appear? Haso and Christabel! Christabel van Bijl (which I always read as van Bilge) and Prudence are so not destined to become BFF's. Not even close. Their verbal cat-fighting is easily the best part of the book. I love and loathe Christabel. While Prudence is a tall shapely redhead, Christabel is a tall shapeless blonde telephone pole. A telephone pole with teeth.

Christabel: My what a large strong girl you are! I am sure to be bruised from your handshake. It must be ever so helpful for your job that you are so burly.
Prudence: It is a good thing I'm big and burly...someone has to take care of the weaklings of the world.
Haso: Fifteen all.
Christabel: We're going to a ballet this evening. I was fabulous at ballet until I grew to be a telephone pole.
Prudence (ever so sweetly): You would need stamina.

Little sister Sebeltsje(yes, that's her name) tells Prudence that Haso is not just a doctor, he's a professor and a senior partner. Really? At 33? But wait! That's Not All! He's a Professor of Surgery. Professor Haso invites hardworking Prudence out to dinner...without giving her time to say no. She decides that she will start faking a bad headache around 6:00pm - but that's a no-go. Haso calls her up in the morning and warns her that she'd better not get a headache. "I shall come and haul you out of bed and take you to dine in your nightie. A charming one, if I remember aright." He remembers aright (see, I told you that nightie would get some mileage). He might be a little interested in her at this point, but we're never really sure. Yes, he does take her out for dinner wherein, under the auspices of armed neutrality, he plies her with booze in the form of sherry, 2 glasses of hock and 2 glasses of champagne. She then asks him if it's okay to drink and drive in Holland. Of course not! Haso drinks a cup of coffee and off they go (I'm wondering at this point what the "legal blood alcohol limit" in Holland was back in 1988).
Guernsey Island Interlude:
Prudence and the courtesy aunts go on vacation - in spite of the fact that Prudence is still not drawing any wages and really ought to get busy and find a real job. It's here that she meets Jerome Blake, Fortune Hunter. The snake- hipped Mr. Blake seems awfully cozy with the hotel staff - they feed him all sorts of nuggets of information - verifiable and non. He learns that Aunts Bea and Emma are filthy rich - so he assumes their "niece" Prudence is due to fall heir to their filthy richness. Too bad he didn't do his homework. He does turn a bit nasty when Prudence turns down his proposal of marriage and tells him she doesn't have any money. Lucky for Prudence - Haso turns up to run the blighter out of town. And does a spot of comforting the sniveling Prudence. Hark! Is that the sound of a softening heart? Haso does ask Prudence if they are beginning to like each other...but she's not ready to go that far yet. He does go on to ask her why she isn't married yet...Prudence admits to the desire to be swept off her size 9's and showered with roses and diamonds and champagne (which sounds prickly, bumpy and sticky - all at once). I sense some foreshadowing going on here. A day or two back in Holland and it's time to go back to Aunt Maud's (real, not courtesy aunt). What's that Haso? You will drive Prudence home? Lovely. Tot-zeins! A handy bit of snogging (which Prudence decided that she enjoyed) on the ferry deck and then home to Aunt Maud where our heroine has some mail awaiting. Sister in charge of Women's Surgical in Aberdeen, Scotland! Let's get a reply to that in the mail! The very day Prudence gets a confirmation letter that she has the job, Haso shows up again. As soon as she claps her eyes on him she knows! Her Dawning Realization comes like a shower of cold water and leaves her breathless...which is just as well, because Haso is here to whisk her back to his do another spot of unpaid nursing. His mum has a ruptured appendix and peritonitis and she wants Prudence to nurse her. No, no, I can't go - I have a job in Aberdeen. Haso calmly dials up the hospital and gets her terminated. In spite of being wildly in love with Haso, willing to go through fire and water for him, Prudence is still mulish about going with him, but go with him she does. Back to Holland. (for those counting, this will be her third trip this summer!). Haso's mum comes home from hospital and Prudence puts her nose to the grindstone. When she finally gets an free afternoon (remember, not being paid!), Prudence borrows a bike and promptly gets herself lost in a thunderstorm. Haso finds her (but she doesn't spend much time probing his motives) and takes her back home - even though she is stubborn and mulish about it (again). His mum would really rather Haso fell for Prudence instead of Christabel, so she gets a bit sneaky and asks Prudence to come read to her (after Prudence has put on her fetching nightie) Oh hello, son - don't mind us. Prudence goes to bed, but then gets back up to leave a note for the cook...she hears Haso and his mum talking - waters are muddied...Prudence then calls up Aunt Maud and asks her to fake an illness or something so that she has a good reason to leave immediately. Aunt Maud is game, she calls in the morning saying she has a broken leg...needs Prudence home. Haso knows what's going on - he saw Prudence on the stairs the night he volunteers to drive Prudence home - which of course horrifies her. He then takes her hand and pulls her into the house - in to a small room that is bursting with roses, there's champagne in a bucket and he offers her a sapphire ring with diamonds. Snogging ensues. The End. What?? The End??? Yeah...pretty abrupt.

Rating: Remember back at the beginning when I complained about Prudence? I never got to where I liked her. Her only shining moments for me was when she was having her verbal catfights with Christabel. Here is a sampling of words used to describe her or her tone of voice: waspish, sharp, shrill, pettish, snappy, wooden, scathing, chilly, cross, pointed, annoyed, etc...Ugh. She puts me in mind of Enchanting Samatha who I found less than enchanting. Haso comes off as unusually tepid for a RDD. I'm going to give this one a Madeira cake on the strength of verbal catfights and a trip to Guernsey Island.
Fashion: Jersey three piece in a flattering shade of pale green, the infamous dressing gown and matching nightie, slim sheath of corn coloured silk, indigo blue silk jersey
Food: enough lobster dishes to put the poor creatures on the endangered species list, a forbidden box of chocolate, tomatoes with forcemeat stuffing (ew?), trifle, courgettes in cream sauce, new (as opposed to old?) herrings served on slivers of toast, mouthwatering salad, Charlotte Russe, fresh mushroom salad, strawberries and thick Guernsey cream.


  1. Betty van den BetsyJanuary 30, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    In my humble o, Betty way over-relies on her dog-whistling (great analogy). Prudence is good at her job, unflappable, hard working and self-sacrificing, so she must be a lovely person regardless of her lack of self-awareness and chilly waspy scathingness toward a man she disliked on sight simply because she doesn't want to acknowledge an attraction to him. She sounds like a bit of a dope.

    Haso will be an ideal husband because he rides roughshod over Prudence's decisions, loves his mother (more than his future wife?), and has an old house with old servants. Never mind that his failure to clear up Prudence's understandable confusion on their first meeting, which he could have done so easily and with perfect grace. Never mind his doing her out of a job because... she's the only nurse in the world who can save his mother? Because he knows better than she what's good for her? Pfui.

    Still, it makes me want to go to Guernsey, and to Claridge's, so yay for Betty once again.

  2. I found that I enjoyed reading Paradise for Two more the second time around (the most enjoyable part being Prudence's first conversation alone with Christabel wherein Prudence stops her at every attempt to put herself forward).

    Yes, the aunts should have paid Prudence for her services, but I have a feeling she wouldn't have accepted it anyway. Haso did offer to hire another nurse to care for Aunt Emma but Prudence (showing self-sacrifice, I thought) refused it. The aunts must be forgiven because that was the only way that Haso and Prudence could meet.

    It's easier for me to like Prudence than Haso. I agree that Prudence is waspish for most of her time with Haso, but not without provocation, the worst one being the time he called her into his office to chew her out and to defend Christabel even after Prudence's explanation. Although he had feelings for her, he strung along Christabel, making it hard for Prudence to even consider him available. Unlike most Neels heroes, he took to heart her assertion that she never wanted to see her again. He gave up quickly, showing little patience and determination. It's a wonder they got together at last.

    1. "...her assertion that she never wanted to see him again....."

  3. Betty Barbara here--
    If this book had been written by any author other than The Betty Herself, I would have thrown it against the wall and given it a 'DNF' (Did Not Finish) on Goodreads. As it was, I had to force myself to get through it. I didn't like him, I didn't like her.
    Over-salted Tinned Soup from me. The dialog between Prudence and Cristabel might lower the sodium content--but not by much.
    Blechhh (as Snoopy would say.....)

    1. Ah, I forgot another enjoyable moment--although at the expense of Prudence's judgmental-jump-to-conclusions-think-the-worst-of-others character. It was her red-face moment when, after learning more about Haso's profession, she said something like, "I thought he was only a GP." He walks in then. Oops. The conversation had been with Haso's family members (sis & BIL). Double oops. He clearly read her belief heretofore, namely, that he was a GP bent on living the life of leisure instead of looking in on his aunts more often. Triple oops.

  4. Oh, dear. This is another one of those books that I have enjoyed reading many times. I love all the bickering. Give me chilly-snappy-tart-annoyed heroines any time! Prudence is even crosser than my dear little Tishy (Uncertain Summer). There was one scene though, two actually, where I did not understand her, where she was rude and unreasonable. It was the scene where she tells Christabel van Bijl (I am tempted to read bile) off for bringing "glossy magazines" when she came to see Haso's mother. How was Christabel to know Mevrouw ter Brons Huizinga was so weak she could not even hold them? The polite thing would have been to take the magazines and give them to Haso's Mama later. And never mind if she would ever want to read them or not. (Aramintalivias (almost) always do the polite thing - even when they don't like the Veronicas.) And then the scene where Haso tells her Christabel was upset at her rudeness... But otherwise I thought the book was delightful. - But then, I happen to like little Tishy and you don't.
    Am I wrong in assuming that you don't care much for The Taming of the Shrew?
    Betty Anonymous

    1. I actually love The Taming of the Shrew...(Kiss Me Kate is one of my favorite adaptations)

    2. I'm with Betty Debbie: I always read her name as "van Bilge" AND "Prudence Makepeace" may indeed be the best combined name (of course, as some Bettys know, I'm partial to "Eliza Proudfoot")--Ermentrude taking the honors for first names.

      The "Fifteen All" scene is very unexpected--I almost wet my pants the first time I read it (okay, having four kids in four years over the age of thirty-five means wetting my pants isn't quite all that unusual...What's that I hear? Is that you, Betty Barbara?...Oh, sorry, TMI on the urge incontinence thing). But, the best part of this book was its hilarious review. The beanpole graphic should be enshrined in the UJD Hall of Illustrative Genius Fame alongside the plane crashing behind Marnix's castle.

      At the risk of repeating myself from the first incarnation of the review, I really want that Dior gown and robe set. Plus I think we should have a contest on what Haso said in Dutch in the garden when he first saw her (if Betty had finished the book with that revelation it would have helped alot).

      Lastly, Betty Anon (doesn't "Anon" sound a wee bit like an Dutch upstairs maid?), if you want someone who can smart-mouth, without being shapely and gorgeous, try Hannah. She manages it without ever becoming shrill. I just can't forgive Prudence for being *itchy about coming to nurse his mother on her potential deathbed (especially when supposedly she just discovered that she loved him).

    3. The reason I am tempted to read bile is that the Dutch word bijl almost sounds like it and the German word for it does sound like it and since I'm reading in English...
      Re.: "doesn't "Anon" sound a wee bit like a Dutch upstairs maid?"- Offhand, I would say no. We will just have to wait for Betty van den Betsys post Betty by the Numbers: Retainers' Monikers (working title) and then make comparisons.
      Betty Anonymous

    4. Betty Anonymous, I am sure you are correct about "bile" (plus it is so fun your way); I am a notorious mis-pronouncer of Dutch names (Valen-tij-len or Everand anyone?). Professor van der Hertenzoon just observed, "Whom are you kidding?"--I butcher English words all the time. In the words of Garrison Keillor, "I'm a reader not a pronouncer."

    5. Betty JoDee, I am a bit of a stickler for getting the pronunciation right. So you may imagine the fun I have each time I find a word that I have been happily mispronouncing for literally decades.
      Betty Anonymous

  5. Tee hee, for sure feisty Prudence will be all over Haso's secret gardener accounts at Harrods and Claridges, happily maxing out his well-fed accounts at all those discrete exclusive designer fashion shops around London. That'll teach him for giving up too easily - when she tells him in subtext to get the hell out or her life by she means by puttin' a ring on it, stat!

    In terms of Neel's heroines, its fun that she actually has a voice and is not afraid to use it on snide Christabel. Its quite lovely to hear from a gal who can actual dish out retaliatory meangirl quips rather than retreating to her corner forcing a Professor to come over and lick her wounds/save her. I wish that these Betty stereotypes could be a bit more general so that Prudence could be both sharp and yet not shrill, adopting a Araminta sensitivity that does not veer into martyrdom.
    Betty AnHK

  6. This is fish fresh from the sea caught by my man and his crew. It’s cooked in butter fresh from the country. That’s what makes it taste so good, you know. And John would say, "Don’t I look healthy?". So if I want butter, don’t give me something else.
    John: Yep. Butter is one of the good things in life.
    Alas, you did not get to skip the ad.

    New Herring

    The first young herring of the season ready for consumption is called Nieuwe Haring or Hollandse Nieuwe (also called maatjesharing).
    The soused herring (maatjesharing or just maatjes in Dutch, or matjes in German and Swedish) is an especially mild salt herring, which is made from young immature herrings caught between the end/mid of May and the end of June. The herrings are ripened for about five days in oak barrels in a salty solution, or brine. The pancreas, left in the fish during the salt-curing process, releases pancreatic enzymes which support the ripening and make this version of salt herring especially mild and soft.
    To protect against infection by nematodes, Dutch regulations mandate freezing to at least minus 45°C before salting. In the modern day, soused herrings can therefore be produced throughout the year.
    Whereas salt herrings have a salt content of 20% and have to be soaked in water before consumption, soused herrings do not have to be soaked.

    The first barrel of Hollandse Nieuwe is auctioned off in Scheveningen each year. The proceeds ( 67.750 Euro in 2011, record sum of 75.000 Euro in 2006) go to charitable organisations / non- profit organisations (Jantje Beton in 2011). To vieuw the barrel and appreciate the amount paid for it, click on the right button beneath the picture till you see foto 4. Or watch the video (00:54).

    The arrival of the first herring is celebrated each year on Vlaggetjesdag - (Little) Flag(s) Day. (03:33 seen from the ferris wheel).

    1959 - Vlaggetjesdag (silent) . The boat Geertruida won the prize for the best herring. There’s a lady in a very festive outfit (2:57) – watch for the lovely dog on the pier while the lady is embarking.

    Betty Anonymous

    1. Barrel.
      Let's see if it works this time.

  7. I thought the aunt telephoning about her broken leg and doing it so well that Prudence almost believed her was wonderful.

    Otherwise I thought that Prudence and Haso gave no evidence that they liked each other at all . . .

  8. I loved prudence. She gave as good as she got with haso and Christabel. Nice change to have a confident heroine .loved the scene when they first met. Soo unusual. Looooove the scene with champagne roses and diamonds!!! Wish I knew more about haso's feelings before the convo with his ma. Overall, a great read.