Monday, July 16, 2012

Midnight Sun's Magic--Reprise


Betty Debbie's original take on this on was that it was a rather mixed bag.  And I really have to agree.  Having spent a few formative months of my life working in an Alaska fish factory, all the scenes of Nordic hash slinging seem really real and fun.  But Ola the Married Man is a drain on the production.  A girl should have only so many romantic roadblocks in my opinion.  I ran through the comments section and various Bettys had this to say:

Betty Barbara here--
I can see why the book has its fans--I'm just not one of them. The only scene that raises it above mediocre is Annis' farewell letter. I just wish Annis had gone farther afield when she ran off. Jake really needed to sweat some more.

Cheese Board from me.

and in reply from Betty Magdalen:

Oh, I think he sweated a LOT. And he definitely saw that he'd been a prize idiot. He even admits that to the Jolly of the book, Cor. "I've been a fool," he says, his voice bitter. From an RDD, that's almost a hair shirt!

Love and lardy cakes!
Betty Keira

Annis Brown is 5'10', lovely and has a head full of chestnut hair...girlfriend is fabulous. Instead of trading on all this fabulousity, she has wasted the past three years dating the atrociously boring Arthur Potter. He of the receding forehead, glasses and pedantic nature. They work together in Paediatrics...while she is busy kissing babies, he is getting more than his fill of the rugrats, and vowing that he will never have kids of his own. Annis is getting tired of the tedium that is Arthur, so she ransacks her closet for something to shake up Dr. Boring. She should know better...low necklines never work on men who drive like old ladies.
Next day, Dr. Boring takes Annis to task for wearing the rather 'sexy dress'. Final straw...gloves off...Dr. Boring stops by Annis' office.
Her: Are you planning on marrying me anytime soon?
Him: After we get to know each other better...maybe in three or four more years.
Her: This is totally whack! In three years I'll be thirty!
Time to give this up as a bad job. She has been wasting her time with Dr. Boring when what she would really like is to be swept off her feet. Her not insubstantial feet.
Baby Brother Freddy sends Annis a welcome job opportunity. The experimental station on Spitzbergen needs a nurse-cum-secretary-cum-cook. Some judicious shopping is done...slacks, sweaters and anoraks - no evening dresses, tweed suits or jersey two-pieces - baby it's cold outside and girlfriend is being sensible.
There's just time to visit Great-Aunt Mary before heading North. Great-Aunt is relieved that Annis has broken up with Boring Arthur. 'Another year or two at the hospital and you would have been an old maid - whether you married that Arthur fellow or not. Maybe you can find a large Norwegian on Spitzbergen.'
Freddy picks Annis up in Tromso...instead of taking her to the airport, he takes her to the harbour - it's Travel By Seaplane! Annis gets a warm welcome from the gang at the experimental station - since she's the only woman, that's not surprising - she could look like John Travolta's character in Hairspray and get a warm welcome. One guy does stand head and shoulders above the crowd - both literally and figuratively. Jake. Jake van Germent. Company doctor. He's a bit mocking, but not in a mean way. She is slightly intrigued, but there is no 'sweeping' going on. Jake is placid to the point of immobility. He's also described as 'the silent one of the team." Hmmm. Doesn't sound like her type of romantic hero at all. He does stir himself up one day and invite Annis to go see a herd of seals just around the point of the mountain. Remember, this is an island at the top of the world. You take entertainment where and when you get it. Turns out Jake is not quite as placid as he seems...Annis slips, Jake catches her and takes advantage of the circs to give her a thorough kiss, and takes his time at it. Annis enjoys the kiss, but doesn't set too much store by it - she was sensible enough to know that kissing a girl when there wasn't another female to be seen for miles was perfectly natural. Jake plods along - he's playing a long game here...too bad for him.
The Romance of Ola Julsen:
In order to restock the pantry at Ice Station Spitzbergen, Jake and Annis take a field trip to Ny Aalesund in Jake's plane. On the way back, we enter into...The Ola Zone. For some unexplained reason, Ola is out on the frigid water around Spitzbergen in a small motorboat. The motor of his small motorboat has conked out and he's drifting dangerously close to a lethal outcropping of rock. Jake sets his seaplane down, and the stranger is picked up. The handsome stranger with the vivid blue eyes and the wavy blonde hair. Very romantic looking, and soon to be nakedish. Jake tells him to strip down and never mind the pretty lady in the back, she's a nurse. Ola seems to be just what the love doctor ordered for Annis. Ola is coming to work at the station. He manages to nearly always be free when Annis is, he brings her little treasures...fossils, seabird feather and A BOOK OF POETRY W/MARKED PASSAGES. Editor's Note: What kind of guy brings a book of poetry to an island that he will be sharing almost exclusively with other males? Walking is engaged in, talking is engaged in (mostly by Ola) Annis is completely honest and upfront with Ola. The same can not be said of him. He is evasive about his family and hometown. No matter. Ola is completely different from Arthur the Boring and right now that's all that counts. Frankly Annis is blinded by the blonde hair and blue eyes. What she should have noticed is the awesome heroism exercised by Jake when HE rescued Ola. Annis gets another whack at noticing Jake's similarity to a knight in shining armour when he saves a young Finn (Harald) from drowning - at the cost of breaking his own leg. Ola does not show up well in this comparison. He freezes up while Annis is running to help Jake and the young man. Ola was abso-frickin-lutely useless.
Annis flies with the two patients (Jake and Harald - who has a concussion) to Ny Aalesund...where she has plenty of time to NOT give Jake sponge baths...he insists on washing himself. And now we have the dubious pleasure of visualizing our RDD in a cast - for most of the rest of the book.
Jake does have hidden depths...still waters run deep.
Him: My dear Annis, I'll do anything to oblige you.
Her: Yes, I know, but only when it suits you.
Ola the Romantic But Useless swings by the hospital...guess what? He's married! He then blathers on about how he didn't tell her before because he didn't think she was the type to snog a married man - she wouldn't have considered it cricket. Annis keeps it together long enough to inform Ola that he obviously doesn't know jack about the rules of cricket. Her stiff upper lip lasts just so long....but Annis is craving a good howl, so a good howl is what she has - and then tries to disguise the traces by wearing dark glasses to work. The dark glasses might fool Harald the young Finn, but Jake is too savvy...she can't hide her lying eyes - off come the glasses.
Annis has to fight off the temptation to howl at the drop of a hat...Jake is pretty understanding - back at the station he looks like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth - (what does that even mean?) Annis mopes around a bit - but there's a tiny little infinitesimal niggling doubt, worming its way into her thoughts. Why couldn't Ola have been more like Jake? Sure, girlfriend was swept away by the outward signs of mushiness, but she's starting to realize Ola was a Class One Weasel, and the quicker she gets over him, the better. Annis needs something to take her mind off Ola, so she goes out in bad weather to save a wounded seagull. Jake plays the knight in shining armour, hero guy once more and saves her. While standing in Jake's arms Annis realizes that Ola means nothing to her - he's simply a cardboard cutout. It's Jake she wants to stay with for the rest of her life! Wow, that was quick. Too bad Jake doesn't seem that interested.
Annis' time at the station is running out - but she's just not sure exactly when, and there seems to be a conspiracy of silence. Everyone says, "Ask Jake"...but Jake spends a great deal of time avoiding the question. Even Freddy fibs a bit. That's it, she's had it...Annis kicks the table and bursts out crying. Which is where Jake finds her.
Him: Tears? My poor little Annis! Do you have any special plans after you leave here?
Her: Boo hoo, no.
Him: Good! Will you marry me? You're the nicest girl I ever met and the prettiest. I like the way you walk and talk, I enjoy being with you...I think we could be happy together.
Sounds good doesn't it? Annis loves him and he's given her a lovely proposal...but he's not done yet.
Him: I could wait until you're over Ola...but since you're out of a job now and my sister is married I need someone to run my house.
Ooo...a swing and a miss! It's a dang MOC.
Of course our girl says yes...how can she not? A swift kiss and the deal's sealed.
Freddy is happy for her...Jake will go down a treat with Aunt Mary.
Instead of flying Annis back to England in his seaplane (remember that pesky cast on his leg?), Annis and Jake go back on the Coastal Steamer by way of Longyearbyen, Bear Island, Tromso, Trondheim and finally Bergen. It's a lovely cruise...Annis enjoys her time with Jake - although his descriptions of his mother and his home leave a little to be desired. Annis secretly thinks his mother sounds truly awful and Annis had visions of herself toiling around a not very modern house with only a daily woman to do the rough. She's more than willing to cross those bridges when she gets to them, after all she loves Jake to distraction. She makes an attempt to tell him that she's completely over Ola - that her affair with him was as cold as yesterday's potatoes...but sadly they are interrupted by an elderly Norwegian couple (drat those darn Norwegians!). Wedding plans are made, fun is had shopping - teasing and lighthearted banter. Nice. And then it's off to England for a quick meet up with Aunt Mary
Off to Holland and it's time to meet the mother-in-law...who turns out to be lovely. Not awful at all. Which is good, since Annis will be staying with her for the three weeks it takes to get married in Holland. Yes, instead of the usual special license in England Jake is going the whole nine yards and doing the complete two-step white wedding in Holland.
Annis misses a little of the romance she had with Ola - but she doesn't miss Ola. She tries to tell Jake, but he interrupts.
Mama van Germent brings up the subject of baby Jakes...which is a lovely thought...but she needs to talk to Jake about it - he might have other ideas.
Mama Germent also brings up ghosts of old girlfriends - the thought makes Annis jealous, which makes her sad. Jake cheers her up with a bit of snogging, the heirloom family sapphire and dinner at Schudderbeurs. Oh, and some more kissing. A fair amount of snogging is engaged in between Jake and Annis. Wedding morning - Annis hangs out the window in her flimsy nightie, which earns her an invitation to go for a pre-nuptial walk. She makes another attempt to tell Jake that she's long over Ola - but Aunt Mary interrupts.
On with the wedding. Weddings, that is. It's the double-Dutch version - first a civil ceremony, then the ecclesiastical version...then a lovely reception afterwards - attended by cross-over characters Waldo and Olympia (from The End of the Rainbow). At the reception Annis gets to meet cousin-in-law Wretched Ria. Ria is one of those relatives you spend your life trying to avoid.
Wretched Ria: So this is the bride? I never supposed you'd settle for a foreigner - I thought Nina was the one for you.
Annis sees just how ghastly and spiteful Ria is and handles the situation beautifully. When Ria the Wretched is gone, Annis has a simple question for Jake. Unfortunately Jake isn't willing to answer her simple question "Who's Nina?" It really is a simple question...and the answer isn't that complicated - it's more than a little irritating that he fobs he off with, I'll tell you about her sometime...later. With that statement, Nina begins to assume mythical proportions.
Jake does ask her a question. Are you over Ola? She would have liked to answer but he really didn't want to hear the wrong answer, so he doesn't leave her an opening...so she doesn't get a chance to tell him that she is, she really really is. Really.
Annis gets a irritated and snaps at Jake as she's heading off to her lone bed...but once there she turns around and races back down to apologize for being beastly. He looks and sounds remote - which doesn't really help, so back she goes - but not to indulge in tears. That would be a waste of time. She needs to plan her strategy for getting her husband to fall in love with her.
Five days into the marriage Annis tries to explain her feeling to Jake once again. Once again she is interrupted. This time it's Wretched Ria and her husband. More remarks dripping with poison...which Annis ably deflects. Ria is a nasty piece of work...so she plays the Nina card again.
Wretched Ria: You're lucky to have found someone suitable...after Nina The Chupacabra!
Jake: Annis is suitable. (Strike one).
Annis (after Wretched Ria leaves): Why am I suitable?
Jake: Umm...you're a nurse (Strike two), you're beautiful (ball one), and a delightful companion (ball two).
Annis: Was Nina suitable?
Jake: Don't you worry your pretty little head about Nina (Strike threeeee...you're out!)
Jake suggests that they throw a dinner party. It's a lovely excuse to shop for a pretty dress - which they take advantage of later in the week...when Jake finally gets his cast off. Olympia and Waldo are guests at the dinner party - Annis decides to take the bull by the horns and question Olympia about the Nina The Yeti. She's not really trying to go behind Jake's back - she just wants to be prepared the next time Wretched Ria bares her fangs. Jake sees Annis and Olympia talking and asks Annis what they were talking about. He's not at all happy that Annis was asking questions - but I don't really get that - he didn't have anything to hide - so why not say so and be up front about it?'Coincidentally, Ola shows up in town the very next day. She quickly gives him the brush off and goes home - looking ill enough for the butler to notice. Ola shows up at Jake and Annis' home that evening - when Jake is out. Lots of flowery phrases pass his lips, but Annis is firm and furious and sends him packing. Jake just so happens to be in his study when Ola leaves...and is quick to draw some wrong conclusions.
The next morning Annis tries to talk to Jake - but he is in an 'unwilling to listen' frame of mind. He would rather wait until they are both calmer and can discuss the situation rationally. Jake should have consulted his RDD's Guide To Women - because, gosh, implying that your wife is not a rational being is tantamount to a declaration of war. Annis is mad, and she's not going to take it. They had reached a point where they must talk or finish it - and Jake wouldn't talk! She pens a note and has it delivered to him at work:
Dear Jake,
I keep trying and trying to tell you I love you, but every time I open my mouth, I get interrupted. Seriously. I wouldn't touch Ola with a ten foot Norwegian herring! If you still want your precious Nina, JUST SAY SO!!! I'm going away - who knows, I might get rational, if I do, you'll be the first to know.
Love, yes LOVE,
Annis
Annis drives off to the closest haven she can think of...Schudderbeurs. Yes, it's evidently not just a restaurant, it's also an inn. Or a hotel...or something. Jake is frantic with worry...the manager of Schudderbeurs just so happens to know Jake's phone number...Jake shows up...declarations of love, possibly the most explicit (for Neels) implied conjugal relations are mentioned. The end.

Rating: This is really a hard book to rate. It has a lot in common with Cassandra By Chance - remote island location, taciturn hero, heroic water rescue...but it's just not as fun. There's an ick factor with Ola the married man...he's beyond creepy...and yet, I still re-read this book. Annis has wasted 3 years on Dr. Boring - which is about 2 11/12 years too long and now she's looking to be swept off her feet. Jake's romantic pacing is slower than molasses in January - it's no wonder she falls for Ola the speedy worker. Gosh, if only he wasn't a creepy married weasel. And yet, I still re-read this. I think I like how Annis keeps plugging away, in spite of being interrupted every time she opens her mouth. Okay, not every time...I'm going to be generous and give this one Mince Pies. I'm not convinced it deserves it, but it is memorable and I don't dislike Annis - even though she has such a bad track record with men before she finally settles down with Jake.
Food: First meal @ Spitzbergen - the men were lavish with the can opener. Poached salmon, jacket potatoes, Lucullus cake, Aqua Vitae, fillet of beef Meurice, artichokes in garlic sauce, tender little steaks with peppercorns in a cream and brandy sauce served with fennel and tiny pommes frites, souffle glace.
Fashion: Slacks, slacks and more slacks. Anorak, low cut gown that shocks Dr. Boring, grey silk jersey, a party dress that is not purchased for posterity.