I'm going to venture deep into the Land of Too Much Information. If you'd rather not follow, just skip to Betty Debbie's more than delightful review and pay no mind...
Is it Providence or Mere Coincidence that I have been ringed about by apples this week? Betty Debbie has been harvesting her back-40 and making gallons of fresh apple juice. We're re-posting this review, which contains the best apple core scene in the history of Betty. And...while I was driving to a parent-teacher conference (no, I didn't take teacher an apple), I...uh...tossed my apples (literal apples, not figurative) while I was driving! And then I pulled to the verge, threw the people-mover in park, opened the door and tossed them in the street. Five pregnancies and this is a first! My kingdom for a kindly, vast Dutch doctor to mop me up...
But I shall likely not be following in American expatriate Gwyneth Paltrow's footsteps by naming this one Apple.
Love and Apple Betty!
I thought I didn't like An Apple from Eve...but guess what? It's not half bad. There's quite a lot to like about this book...but it does have a couple of flaws.
First of all, our girl's name is Euphemia. Which I persist in pronouncing 'you-FEEM-ee-ya', which is probably wrong. The name 'Euphemia' means 'to speak well'. I'm not sure this definition particularly applies to our girl. Euphemia was also the name of a 3rd century martyr The Great Martyr Euphemia, which does sound a little more like her. Euphemia is pretty great, but she does have a bit of a martyr tendency.
Euphemia (so sorry about the name) is driving home to Hampton-cum-Spyway in her aging Morris 1000. She's stuck at a light, right next to a great socking Bentley. Said Bentley is being driven by a handsome man with a 'high forehead' Question: is 'high forehead' possibly a euphemism for 'receding hairline'? Discuss. She's concerned about the wheezing and gasping coming from under the bonnet...but not as concerned as she's going to be when she gets home to find her father wheezing and gasping. Mr. High Forehead is standing in her father's bedroom with Dr. Bell. Guess what? Daddy's dying. No one has told Euphemia, even though she is:
- Twenty seven years old.
- A Nurse.
- The oldest child.
- Named after a martyr.
The colonel, unlike most Neels parents, had managed to do a little estate planning. His boys are taken care of. There is a fund for their education. Besides that, the only thing the old man left were debts and a heavily mortgaged house. Euphemia does a few sums and decides that she will have to work really hard so that she can pay off the mortgage (in about 15 years) - because Nicky should inherit the house. Ellen is to go live with Aunt Thea in Middle Wallop. Dr. Bell gives Euphemia a little financial advice, Why don't you rent the house out? Euphemia is struck. That's a brilliant idea! No sooner said than done - Sir Richard Blake (who works at St. Cyprian's with Euphemia) has mentioned her house to someone...that someone turns out to be none other than Dr. Cold as Ice-High Forehead Guy. She's not thrilled, but money is money, and he's willing to fork over plenty of green.
Dr. van Diederijk arranges to have a walk through of Myrtle House (which sounds like a wood carving business). Euphemia races around cleaning and turning rugs before putting some cakes in to cook while she's tarting herself up. Euphemia is a forthright girl...she may have turned rugs so that they present their best side...but she doesn't shy away from pointing out the tear in the entryway carpet. Dr. van D. remarks that she could have it repaired - to which she mentally snorts, if you have the money for it. The house isn't all that he could wish for...he offers to put in another bathroom, on his dime. Euphemia can't figure out what a bachelor needs with a third bathroom.
Soon after moving to Myrtle House, Dr. van Diederijk throws a drinks party - he invites his landlady. That would be Euphemia. She gets her first glimpse of Diana Sibley, baronet's daughter, RDD's fiancee. She looked cold. As cold as Dr. van Diederijk. If they had children, they would be a bunch of little icicles. Euphemia hasn't had anything solid to eat all day, so she snags an apple and has a seat on the stairs. Eve and the apple, says he. He's come to get her...to introduce her to his fiancee. She hands him the apple core and prepares to engage the enemy.
Back at St. Cyprian's, Dr. van Diederijk shows up with Sir What's-his-face. He's the new consultant. That means Euphemia is going to have a lot more time with her tenant. Which gives her time to reflect on his still-single status. The only reason she can come up with for Diana the Dreadful and Dr. van Diederijk not to tie the knot is that they just don't love each other enough. Bingo. Girlfriend has hit the nail on the head. This doesn't mean she wants to have a go at him. Far from it.Dr. van Diederijk has a proposition to make. Diana the Dreadful has had a case of the mumps. He bribes her to act as nurse. The bribe? He dangled her old house in front of her like a carrot in front of a donkey. Sister Ellen and the boys can stay in the house during the upcoming school holiday.
Him: Poor Diana has been suffering. She is languid and listless.
Her: Why can't she just recuperate in England?
Him: She's in low spirits and out of sorts, and frankly doesn't want to be seen by her friends. She needs...
Her: She wants someone to brush her hair, massage on creams and feed her up.
Him: She's the ethereal type.
Her: That's all very well, but see what happens when she gets a bit off colour - she loses pounds and looks like a matchstick.
Him: What a rude young woman you are.
Her: (Best line in the book) You did say mumps? (I want that on a t-shirt).
On the flight to Spain, Euphemia gets to thinking about Dr. van Diederijk and Dreadful Diana. Dr. van Diederijk is in need of rescuing! thinks she. Dreadful Diana whinges on and on about her illness. It was just mumps, right?
Poor Euphemia is reduced to eating rabbit food - both Diana and her aunt are light eaters. Besides short rations, Euphemia also has very little real time off. The first time she gets a break she practically stumbles over a wounded little boy, very dirty, pupils are unequal a sign that there was some local brain damage. Mrs. Kellard and Diana refuse him entry. Lucky for the little blighter that Euphemia is not a quitter. She starts down the driveway with him in her arms. Lucky again for him that Tane (yes, that's his name, get used to it) drives up in a taxi in time to drive them to hospital.
Tane asks her how Diana is coming along. She lifts her hand and starts ticking off: Her hair is better, her skin is more supple and she may have gained some weight - but she's still way too bony.
Tane informs the Diana and Euphemia that he plans to make a slight detour on the way back to England. A one day stop-over in Holland. That'll be all nurse, I'm sure you're tired after your little adventure with the dirty little guttersnipe. Yes, Diana is being just as gracious as usual - it's just her way of getting Tane to herself. Euphemia has to stifle a strong urge to thump her. Personally, I think a thumping would be good for her.
Tane takes advantage of Diana's habit of sleeping in and accompanies Euphemia on a shopping expedition the next morning. They have a lovely time, right up until Euphemia sticks her forthright foot in it. Why don't you get married? (Oh my gosh! I love him! I want to marry him!) Ah well, it's too late in the day for that. Or is it?
Even though Tane only has one day in Holland with the girls, he manages to check off many of the requisite RDD musts.
- Meeting with mother and father.
- House Tour O' Love.
- Garden Tour O' ditto.
- Meeting the household help.
- Scrumptious meal that helps make up for the short rations in Spain.
- Fiancee is introduced to another man - Cor de Vries (who sounds like an internet college). He may as well be a drive-by set-up for all the exposition we get.
- Awesome snogging. Oh, you mustn't! Then she leans right back in and kisses him back.
- Have you considered selling your house?
- Him: Is there anyone you'd like to marry? Her: Your roses are magnificent. Him: Do I know him? Her: Isn't that a mandarin duck?
All that before breakfast the next day. Mama van Diederijk is pretty great. She wonders why Diana hasn't come down for breakfast yet. It was just the mumps, wasn't it?Euphemia is feeling a little awkward, so she takes to avoiding him back at St. Cyprian's. She resorts to the time-honoured strategy of changing her days off. Tane tracks her down to Aunt Thea's - where she is to be found eating an apple again. You really are a girl for apples - are you tempting me?
And now for a double dose of drama. First: She finds out the Tane has assumed the mortgage of Myrtle House - meaning she'll have to pay him! She rips him a new one at the next opportunity. He takes it pretty well. I'm a patient man. Second: A gas main explodes right outside St. Cyprian's and Euphemia is forced to be heroic. The floor is starting to collapse when Tane shows up. Miraculously, his vastness doesn't make it give way. At least, not until the last patient is saved. Euphemia is more than happy to have his help, but she's still mad about the mortgage. It doesn't help that Tane has manuevered her into being offered the most awful temporary nursing job - as Relief Sister. If he'd been around at that moment she would have boxed his ears. It seems all the men in her life are bent on being patronizing...Sir What's-his-name tells her to take a couple of days off. She can go down to Myrtle House and rest. Euphemia is not keen. To say the least. It's not like she had the mumps or something. There's no convincing Sir Wh..... so off she goes to Hampton-cum-Spyway. She gets one good night's rest before Tane shows up. I knew when I first saw you in your old car...and then when you sat on the stairs eating an apple I had a tough time restraining myself from marrying you out of hand. By the way, here's the deed to Myrtle House, I love you, let's kiss. The End.
Rating: Gosh, there's a lot to like here. Some truly delightful scenes. It is hard to get past her name. Eupemia or even the shortened version 'Phemie'. I can't make it sound good. In spite of her less than appealing name, she does have a refreshingly forthright manner. You did say mumps? Tane is just okay for me. He is engaged to the appalling Diana for no apparent reason - and then he asks Euphemia to nurse her? That doesn't bother me too much, as it's a fairly common Neelsism, I just wish we got more of the give and take between Tane of Euphemia, because they are awesome together. The ending was pretty abrupt. Betty Neels did like to wrap things up fairly quickly in her novels - but I felt like the 1 1/2 pages of wrap up that were given here were a bit too short. I think I'll go with a boeuf en croute.
Food: apples (twice), quenelles of crawfish with lobster sauce, spiced chicken with apricots, watercress soup (twice), pasties, fairy cakes, iced melon, chicken Kiev, lemon sorbet, calamares fritos, fresh pineapple, artichaut Clamart, pommes de terre Beray.
Fashion: 'A dress to be reckoned with', Diana wears to worst outfit ever described in print - an orange brocade jumpsuit, he wears a white dinner jacket and looks elegant in summer suiting, long-flowered skirt and embroidered blouse, expensive cotton jersey.