Monday, May 21, 2012

A Small Slice of Summer: Reprise

Remember when  we wrote posts that were followed up with discussion threads?  Yeah, I hardly remember those days either.  Here's a bit of mine, when Betty Debbie reviewed what has come to be known as 'Tishy and the Bull':
Tishy usually tries to keep her food budget around 40 pence a day, she tells the doctor while dining with him at Le Gaulois in Chancery Lane. Not to harp on my desperate college days, but if I recall correctly, my monthly food budget was around $50. Lots of rice and potatoes and eggs and barbecue sauce and ramen noodles. I don't think a RDD would be on a speaking acquaintance with ramen noodles.
Jason buys her a painting of a gypsy caravan which she nails to her wall with the heel of her winter boot. I wonder if nailing things to the wall was strictly allowed in the nurse's home. To me it sounds like a cross between a nunnery and a dorm room--places where the integrity of the walls are guarded like a Romulan warship. Stands to reason that she couldn't get a hold of a simple hammer.
Love and lardy cakes,
Betty Keira


I'm giving warning upfront that my gut reaction to A Small Slice of Summer is "Gah" (pronounced with a glottal stop and a slight gagging sound). A Small Slice of Summer is a real Curate's Egg.

Letitia Marsden (almost exclusively referred to as "Tishy", yuk.) is a recovery room nurse. Perhaps the only recovery room nurse in Neeldom. She has had "an unfortunate experience" with a Medical Registrar. Which sounds waaaay worse than it was. He invited her to go to Brighton for a weekend and she turned him down. He got back at her by shocking her with the news that she is "old-fashioned" and not even very pretty. Ouch. Yeah, that's pretty much the whole "unfortunate experience". Because of this, Tishy doesn't trust any man under the age of 50 years of age. That's quite the sweeping indictment of an entire sex, based on one weasel. Right off the bat I don't have much sympathy for her.
As a recently certified nurse, Tishy is not exactly rolling in the dough. She spends a fair amount of time calculating how much money she can spend in the cafeteria. All the girls are "protective" of poor little Tishy. Maybe if they weren't she could grow a spine. As it is, she is an invertebrate jellyfish. Squishy, yet occasionally poison. Deadly poison. Her version of poison is to scowl at men who have the temerity to smile at her. Which is precisely what happens when Doctor Jason Mourik van Nie smiles at our gal. Dr. Jason is good friends with cross-over character Julius van den Berg Effert (from the much more delightful Damsel in Green). Jason knows all about "the unfortunate incident"...seems like everyone knows about it. Move along, people, move along.
Evil Medical Registrar stops by the recovery room for a spot of dumping on our gal...and who should walk in, it's Doctor Jason! Who is Tishy riled up at? Doctor Jason. Why? Exactly.
Time to head off to Aunt Maud's to cool off. Disregard Aunt Maud, she never makes an appearance. On the way to said mythical aunt, Tishy falls off a curb, into the path of a grey Jensen Interceptor. The car belongs to Jason, and never fear, he manages to brake nearly in time to avoid hitting her. Nearly. Her ankle is sprained due to her lame-o attempt to fall in a way that won't hurt her new outfit. Her tights are ruined...when Jason cuts them off of her, neatly, just above the ankle. Instead of taking her to Aunt Maud's, he kidnaps her...and takes her to Dalmer's Place. Yes, THAT Dalmer's Place...the part-time home of Julius and Georgie van den Berg Effert. It's okay, she's been there a couple of times before...her older sister Margo is a great friend of Georgie. Georgie immediately puts her matchmaking cap on and sees hearts and flowers where there are none. Yet.
Jason has a few things to tell Tishy:
1. Not all men are villains.
2. Tishy is almost pretty when she smiles.
3. Tishy is a very touchy girl.
Jason drives Tishy home - it's sort of on his way to Plymouth. Thus begins the Typhoid Infected Gypsy Interlude. Tishy and Jason bond over feeding the scruffy dog, boiling water, and burning their clothes. After wasting some perfectly good Rich Tea Biscuits on the hungry dog, Tishy gets her knickers in a twist because...well, really for no good reason. Tishy does not take well to some implied criticism of her old clothes...and the implied hint that they should have been burnt months ago...and this leads naturally to the realization that she is in love with Jason. Right. In typical Neels style, Tishy will now have to hide her love away. She knows it's a bad idea...she's more sensible than that. "Common sense at times could be a dead bore."
Jason and Reverend Marsden bond over a mutual love of porcelain figurines, such as Shepherd Boy with Dog. Men and their hobbies...
Back at the hospital Tishy pines a bit. She is looking plainer than usual. Her modest looks are suffering. Margo (remember the older sister?) shares a birthday party invitation to Georgie's birthday. Which is all well and good until she hears, I mean overhears Julius and Jason talking about her...and Jason damns her with faint praise. She's not that plain and she's a nice girl. She's mad...and she's not going to take it. Take what? Exactly.
House party at Dalmer's Place...Tishy saves the Day! There is an episode involving a bull in a field...she not only saves Georgie and her daughter Polly, she also distracts the bull so that she can save Jason too. During the house party, Tishy spends a fair amount of time with Cousin Karel...who is pretty close to her in age. They laugh and joke and have fun...almost like he's a brother. Let's keep that term "brother" in mind.
I could go through the play by play, but let's not. Suffice it to say, Tishy is in love, and spends a lot of time being snippy, cold, sour, uneasy...all traits that seem to endear her to Jason. Yes, Jason is in love (why, oh why?) but thinks that Tishy might really like the younger man, Karel. Jason finally proposes, but neglects to say the three magic words - I love you - so Tishy declines. Jason discovers that Karel really loves Mary, Tishy is rude and icy to him - which must be quite the attraction, because he tracks her down at work where Tishy shows her true colors, again, and is shrill, cross and furious. I predict a ton of make-up implied conjugal relations in their future.
Verdict: Gah. A Small Slice of Summer is the pathetic Side B. A few good moments, but overall, not so much. Tishy is even more unpleasant than the less than enchanting, Samantha. Jason is not unpleasant, but he just doesn't really register that much. There seems to be no good reason for him to fall for Tishy...maybe it's a gratitude thing for saving him from a charging bull? Kidding. The Great Betty was not on the top of her game with this one. The quote I used (from Pirates of Penzance) for yesterday's trifle would work just as well for this book, so here it is again."Individually, I love you all with affection unspeakable; but, collectively, I look upon you with a disgust that amounts to absolute detestation." I'm going to be super generous and give this a beans on toast.
Food: A slab of treacle tart because starch was filling. cold roast beef, rhubarb pie with clotted cream, bread and butter, scones, Rich Tea Biscuits mixed with canned corned beef (for the gypsy dog).

Fashion: Tan jersey cardigan with a shell pink blouse that she had bought instead of eating properly, old slacks and a cotton shirt that have to be burned, last year's blue and white striped dress, green voile.


  1. Oh, Betty Debbie! I *love* Little Tishy. I empathize strongly with her fed-up-ed-ness with young, single men (not all men, and while she describes it as something akin to detestation, it's really just fed-up-ed-ness). She grew up in a world -- minister dad in rural England in the early 70s -- where a man liking you was supposed to lead to marriage. She's convinced she's not as glamorous as her older sisters (younger sisters always think older sisters are glamorous -- ask Betty Keira -- unless they are horribly mean), and she's shy in consequence. When the object of her infatuation brutally rejects her, she's deeply wounded, and determined not to let it happen again. If Jason hadn't come along, she'd have recovered in 4-6 months. As it is, she goes overboard in protecting herself from a much more out-of-reach object-of-infatuation when Jason starts his low-key courting.

    Jason is one of the genuinely nice heroes to me. All those scenes with Georgie and the offspring! You know he's great dad material.

    I could go on, and on. But I can see someone's logged in from Ellicott City, so I'll finish up and wait to see what Betty Barbara has to say. But for me, A Small Slice of Summer is at least boeuf en croute, if not Queen of Puddings with a dab of cream.

    1. I'm sad that I don't 'get' Tishy, but maybe I'll be more sympathetic to her plight the next time I pick up A Small Slice of Summer. I find it incredibly helpful(at times)to read the differing opinions we share here at TUJD.

      I'm going to dig around my pile and see if I have my copy of ASSoS and put it in my TBR pile. I can't promise I'll get to it soon, I lent a boatload of my BN to Betty Marcy last fall and won't get them back until July or August.

      I'm currently reading The Course of True Love. I would have to say that I'm finding Claribel incredibly dense, but on the other hand, I'm loving how much sneaky courting Marc manages to get in. I also adore how domestic he is.

    2. The Small Slice of Summer is one of my top favourites in the Land of Neels. I adore little Tishy and Jason. I think her nickname is adorable. Bull-chasing, er, being chased by a bull. The Gypsy-Rescue. Having their fortunes read. "And you, kind gentle man, shall I tell you your fortune?" He answered her gravely: "There is no need, I think,"... The Netherlands. Babysitting, feeding the infantry revolting pap. Great-uncle Ivo. Ha! Getting the house tour. Great entertainment!
      Once bitten, twice shy? - So what. Like all the crabbiness. I find it enchanting.
      Betty Anonymous

    3. Betty Barbara here--
      Okay, y'all convinced me. I'll track down a copy and give it another try.
      (And no, I do not own a copy of every book in the canon. I know, I am a failure as a Betty)

      I do recall from a previous reading that I was not overly fond of Tishy. (I kept calling her Tissue or Lettuce--sorry). I wanted to give her a good shaking. But it was good to revisit Dalmer's Place.
      (Betty van den Betsy--when you 'saw' me earlier I had stopped by for a read, but had no time to comment.)

  2. I read Julius' name as "Julius and the Big Effort".

    Betty von Susie

    1. Funny! Maybe you do that because the name lost its y. It was Julius van den Berg Eyffert in Damsel in Green.
      Betty Anonymous

  3. LOL

    B. Francesca

  4. As usual, I'm a bit behind in reading. I always think of this as Tishy and the Bull (is there a double entendre here?), or My Malibu Barbie Summer (because of the cover).

    I'm with Betty van den Betsy on this one. I like Tishy. I get her. I think we sometimes forget how young the women are. And let's face it, even her family and friends tended to damn her with faint praise, when in fact she was a competent, resourceful, and brave young woman. Jason slowly began to realize that. It is easy to be mistaken for snobby and touchy because one is shy and uncertain of oneself. Remember the sleaze ball didn't just dump her, he was quite nasty about it.

    The book has some lovely classic Neels writing/timing, e.g., "Julius can do anything" (heart in throat time).

  5. Here's a postitive vote from another county rather behindedly.
    Just finished ASSoS today and I kinda liked it. Tishy as a nick name is totally cool with me. I had an Aunt, who's nun name was Ceciel Marie but who's nick name was Sr. Tish. (No idea why)

    I got Tishy, too. Having three daughters who are a little bit snippy like their mother, I can relate. "Never mind what you meant, it's how I took it that counts!" But we are wonderful people, other than that! he he he

    And I liked Jason, too. But you gotta admit he did get his Italian loafer stuck in his handsome kisser a few times. Prof. Vue der Plane has suffered mightily for such infractions. True, once was one she shouldn't have heard, but he did call her plain to her face,ladies! Off with his Head!

    I was fascinated with Georgina! She wasn't this much fun in DinG. Has she got fairy G.M. wings in this one or what! Can you see it: FGM George plans to be gone while Tishy recoops in the yard and assures the 'invalid' that she'll be quite alone with a twinkle in that fairy eye. And low and behold, a workman with fairy wings hacks through a water pipe! And wasn't it George who goes walking in the bull pen, literally throwing Tishy and Jason together, where Tishy can show her awesome heroine-ness. Did George sprinkle Typhoid on the Gi(Y)psies, too? And then the whole 'I need a nanny sub' thing.
    Not sure, but I can't think of another Betty where a previous heroine gets so much to do! I enjoyed it immensely.

  6. I liked this one, especially since we did get so much of Georgina and Julius, too. The one quibble I have is with the overheard conversation -- if you and your best friend (who also happens to be a RDD), who grew up together and still live within a mile of each other, and are in and out of each other's homes at will, are having a private, personal conversation with no one else present in the room, wouldn't you be speaking in your native tongue, rather than English? I would have thought they'd be speaking in Dutch, but then of course Letitia would not be able to understand the conversation, and then of course, what would be the point of the scene? Another one of those things that take me right out of the story (and why was that left desk drawer locked?).

    1. When I lived in an English speaking country we would often speak English rather than our native tongue. (We = a German friend and I)

    2. I am not fluently bi-lingual, so I don't have a frame of reference for this at all -- I'm glad to know that this is a common occurrence. Thanks!

  7. >>Tishy usually tries to keep her food budget around 40 pence a day, she tells the doctor while dining with him at Le Gaulois in Chancery Lane.

    Another "update" in newer editions -- in the original book, it's 40 pence a day; in the 2001 "Best of" reprint, it's "three or four pounds a day".

  8. Also, some other "Updates" from A Small Slice of Summer:

    The original Harlequin edition has "... and when someone put on the record player... " vs in the 2001 reprint "...when someone put on the music...".

    And also about her green dress from British Home Stores:

    "To her mind it had two pounds ninety-nine pence written all over it..." vs "To her mind it had bargain written all over it.."

    1. Very observant, Anonymous. Little Tishy is one of my top favourites!
      put on the music
      bargain written all over it

      These changes are brilliant. They don't ever need "updates" again.

  9. I loved Jason -- I, too, thought Tishy was a little too touchy, but considering how she'd been treated (and at 52, I'm having a little bit of trouble recalling 22 with any accuracy) I suppose I might have been a bit touchy myself.

    Besides, don't these Neels heroes have it coming when they toss around easily misunderstood innuendos about how they're planning to get married ... :) and do some misunderstanding of their own?