Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Betty in the Wild

It doesn't get much wilder than this. Moose wandering around our campground. I had Dr. van der Stevejinck take this picture...greater love hath no man, than he snap a picture of Betty with moose.

Question of the Week

When the darling little mob-capped leukaemia sufferer is ready to move on from Katrina's cottage in An Innocent Bride (Ug. That title--an idea I approve on principle but when you say it that way...sheesh.), Simon tells Katrina that little Tracy will "live to a reasonable age".


"A reasonable age".

Question: Given The Venerable Neels' propensity to kill off a lot of blonde 18-year-olds suffering from cancer...what do you think she considers 'a reasonable age'?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

An Innocent Bride - Discussion Thread

Great Aunt Thirza is palmed off with a false diagnosis of 'anaemia' - rather than the leukaemia she does have. The symptoms are close enough to fool her. This Betty is bothered more than a wee bit with this dodgy bit of medical ethics. It certainly doesn't help matters that I too am generally anaemic and now will be wondering about what I'm not being told....

When the chips are down, Katrina gets a job as a day laborer...picking strawberries is one of her jobs. Growing up in the Willamette Valley in the 1970's, it was the privilege/curse of many an underfunded teenager to work the fields for a pittance. String beans were the preferred crop - it was nice and shady between the rows - and if you were slacking off, it was difficult for the boss to see you. Strawberries were horrible. Absolutely horrible. Yes, they are much tastier raw than string beans, but there was no shade and no hiding, PLUS there was all that bending over. Sunburn and backache - I only lasted one summer with the strawberries. It's certainly a good thing Katrina and Simon made a go of it, because I'm not sure how long she could have made a go of the whole day laborer thing.

In most of La Neels earlier novels her tall Junoesque heroines can eat whatever they want without gaining an ounce. Evidently science caught up with Betty. Simon invites Katrina to go for a walk - his excuse is that "we big people tend to put on weight". Huh. We short people put on weight too...I guess it's time to go for a walk.

Part of Aunt Thirza's legacy is a delightful garden. One feature is the moss roses. I'm not quite sure what moss roses are, so I went to that fount of all wisdom, Wikipedia...and I'm still not sure. Evidently there is more than one kind of moss rose.

An Innocent Bride--1999

First the title. An Innocent Bride. Ho hum. A total throw-away. Harlequin clearly didn't know what to do with Betty Neels at this point and was trying to signal readers with semaphore flags, neon signs and traffic cones that this book wouldn't have anybody mucking about in Brighton. But it makes our heroine sound a simp...which she is not. No, the book should have been titled The Moss Rose or Aunt Thirza's Legacy or Love and Leukaemia...

Katrina Gibbs, 24 with masses of dark hair, is sprawling across the country road in all her splendid glory. A motorcyclist driving on the wrong side of the road (Horrid American? But I repeat myself...) has knocked her over and smashed her bike.
Enter the great socking Bentley.
Professor Simon Glenville, 'knocking 40' (39), haematologist at St. Aldrick's and rescuer of fair, young maidens happens upon her, plucks her up and carries her back to Rose Cottage where she lives with her aunt Miss Thirza Gibbs--a retired girl's school headmistress and a woman of prickly disposition and rigid principles who never heard a 'Ms.' in her life and would have given it a frigid stare if she had.
Katrina and Simon and Aunt Thirza get off to such a rough start that it's as though they, all three of them, were hapless British bicycles and Fate an ill-mannered American motorcycle.
When Aunt Thirza (an actual Hebrew name meaning pleasantness and delight...instead of ironclad and unchangeable) is referred to a doctor is it really any surprise that her condition needs the leading haematologist in the history of the British realm?
Naturally, she is going to die. And naturally, no one tells her so. Instead of telling the grown woman that she might die of lymphatic leukaemia at any time they tell her she has Anaemia--a universal catch-all disease that will mask the symptoms of her failing health without alarming her in any way. They don't send you to medical school for years on end to tell the naked truth, evidently.
This gives Katrina and Simon an excuse to meet again and for her to weep (again--the American motorcyclist was upsetting) all over his cloth hankies (which she promises to launder and give back).
Simon brings Aunt Thirza, whom he has decided he rather likes, a moss rose for her garden that is already in bud even though it isn't the season to transplant that sort of thing. Dear me. Plants and fatal diseases. If you're thinking of O. Henry's The Last Leaf, well then, so am I. But we don't have to wait until the last blossom withers on the bush for Aunt Thirza to shuffle off her mortal coil. She passes on in idyllic tranquility, possibly thinking that those iron pills were woefully inadequate and intending to pen a stern letter of rebuke to the head of the NHS.
Simon is off on a lecture tour and Katrina finds that during the funeral hubbub she misses his presence most. A head scratcher.
When he does finally find out he hares off to Rose Cottage in time for tears and mucked up lawn hankerchiefs (with attendant and inevitable promises of laundering). He has sensibly brought a meal from (prepare yourself for the best homehelp name ever) Mrs. Peach. He is unable to pin Katrina down on her future plans and as he leaves his parthian shot is to tell her not to marry a fortune hunter.
Fortune hunter. (Snort.) That would require a fortune at the very least, no? Katrina has a few hundred pounds, Rose Cottage, the extensive kitchen garden and...and a fat lot of good it does her. Aunt Thirza, though lovely enough to provide a home for the orphaned 12-year-old (a plane crash carried off the poor parents. Possibly the plane also carried a oily South American gigolo and a run-away Dutch wife needing to be offed for a future Neels novel?), did not exactly launch her wee chick out of the nest with bankable skills.
In a sensible manner, Katrina decides to become a field laborer by day and a respectable lady of leisure by late-afternoon. Aunt Thirza, mindful of proprieties, would have approved. Simon does not.
Coming upon Katrina while dropping Maureen (oh, have I not mentioned that bit of under-rock ooze? Just wait.) at the manor, he grasps one of her work-roughened hands and presents his findings. '...working on a farm, Katrina?...Grubbing potatoes, picking peas and strawberries?' Oh for the love of...What is he, Sherlock Holmes?
And now for Maureen--bright as a penny and twice as cheap. She is a doctor on his medical team--recently joined--and has sights set on Simon. Any actual meddling she does is fairly incidental. A wee spot of water muddying is all. But, in An Innocent Bride, we are privy to the Machinations of Maureen wherein the villainess plots to annex the dear doctor with false displays of keenness, sympathy, helplessness, charity, distress, unreliable cars and an unbelievable cluelessness about the world of public transport. Neither Simon nor Katrina are ever over-vexed by them (though Katrina does think that Maureen is a front-runner for the hand of Fair Simon due to his willingness to shuttle her about) but it is very entertaining to watch her try so hard.
Maureen meets Katrina (always the correct niece of Miss Thirza) running the bottle stall at the village fete. Of course Maureen wins something. 'I always win.' Well, dust off your cosmic irony, kitten. When this hits the fan, Katrina is going to get the most delightful case of schadenfreude ever.
In the mean time, Simon cooks up a plot. He has a little patient with leukaemia (not the same kind as Aunt Thirza) who needs a rest in the country and he also has Katrina desperately in need of agricultural-grade hand cream and a good manicure. As quick as Bob's your uncle he's got little Tracy (with mother Molly) living with Katrina all financed by the lightening fast and flexible bureaucracy of the NHS!
Seriously, she swallows it. Two birds, one stone.
Tracy gives Simon just the reason he needs to keep visiting. (He's always hiding behind cancer victims to do his courting but just go with it.) He does get her alone for a date at Stourhead and a spot of canoodling but this is a rarity.
Instead, the village grapevine pairs Maureen and Simon. 'But he needs a wife like me!' thinks Katrina. Will you look at that. Imagine leaving a dawning realization lying about where just anyone can trip over it...
Little Tracy is deemed 'well enough' to move out. Katrina finds a job as a part-time librarian/seller of home-grown produce. Things settle.
And then Simon tells her that he's in love with her and...shhhhhh, baby, baby, shhhhhhhh...he'd just like to drop in now and then. Shhhhhhh. 'No, don't say anything, just bear it in mind.'
Don't mess things up by thinking she should have set him straight right then and there. There's another 30 pages to go before the contract is fulfilled.
A fire at the manor more firmly roots Katrina's awesomeness and Maureen's deviousness in our imaginations.
A storm occurs in which Katrina is the teensiest bit weenie.
Simon carries her off to his parents' house (He has parents?!) where he introduces her as their future daughter-in-law.
Proposal. (Ahem. The bit about the cart and the horse applies, methinks.)
A rather nice wedding follows wherein she carries a bouquet of moss roses (awww, Aunt Thirza) and Maureen is banished to India.
The End.

Rating: As a whole this book is just somewhere in the middle. The best bits revolved around the horrid Maureen. It's as though La Neels is finally giving us chapter and verse on How Shallow, Awful Girl Nabs Rich Kind Doctor thus filling in the back-story on almost all Engaged RDD plots. Why would a nice well-to-do doctor get himself caught by the Vapid Undead? Refer to the Maureen template and footnotes.
Aunt Thirza's death is handled beautifully. When I die, I'd like to go that way.
The theme is also a winner. Katrina, brought up rigidly by a circumspect spinster, is bound by Aunt Thirza's formality to express her love in a sort of Remains of the Day repressed smolder.
So, I give it a Treacle Tart. It's not brilliant but it does have some unique touches.

Food: eggs, potted shrimps, rack of lamb, rhubarb fool (how can you turn down a rhubarb fool?), almond buscuits, farmhouse cake, orangeade, lemonade, bacon and egg pie, cheese straws, fish cakes, smoked salmon, tiny pancakes with chopped chicken, cold meat and salad, bad sherry, good wine, cucumber and orange salad.

Fashion: Dateless beige coat, jersey dress (!), his cashmere sweater (The Great Neels fails to sell me on the idea of our heroes in sweaters), cream and amber crepe, a positively life-saving rose-patterned frock.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Upcoming Reviews

Monday, July 5th. The Most Marvelous Summer. How being summer and all. Sandcastles at the beach and a heroine named Matilda. Again. That makes three, so far.

Thursday. July 8th. Victory for Victoria. This book would win the category of "Most Gratuitous Mentions of Name Brand Perfumes in a Betty Neels", hands down. Heroine's home town is on the island of Guernsey.

Betty in the Wild

I'm not here to make anyone feel bad. I'm not here to ratify any feelings of inadequacy. I am not here to crush any dreams of awesomeness...

That's why you'll understand how truly sorry I am to share my Betty in the Wild. I had been feeling a tetch bit lame for bailing on Betty Debbie last week and suddenly, in the line at Space Mountain (at Disneyland), those feelings got the better of me. In a fit of remorse and guilt, I broke rules. I. Broke. Rules. (Most definitely, not a standard Betty Keira MO.) I did not secure loose items while the ride was running. And I got what must surely go down as the awesomest Betty in the Wild pic evah.

This one's for you Betty Debbie:

The Magic of Living clutched in my death grip.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Betty Goes to Church

"Nothing is quite real, thought Matilda, sitting in the Lovell's pew, aware that the congregation were looking at her from under their hats...She sat, not listening to a word of Mr. Milton's sermon, fuming quietly, unaware that her hands were clenched tightly in her lap, until the doctor's large hand picked one up and held it fast. And when she peeped at him he smiled so that she glowed with happiness."

-Matilda's Wedding

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Betty in the Wild


Betty Debbie and Dr. van der Stevejinck visited their favorite son and daughter-in-law today.
Betty Debbie foolishly didn't sign out on Nathan's computer before they left :)

On the road again...and again.

Yesterday was my 30th wedding anniversary.

Dr. van der Stevejinck is the love of my life. Really. Really, really. I keep telling myself that...especially since he just dragged me nine hundred miles to a family reunion. His family's. I love him. I love him. I love him.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

And now for the nine hundred mile drive home.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cinema Betty

Emma's Wedding starts at a bakery, and end's with the happy couple snarfing pasties together. What movie has baking and passion? Moonstruck. It also is rife with awesome quotes, including one of Betty Keira's all time favorites.

"Feed anymore of my food to those dogs old man, and I'll kick you 'til you're dead."

'nuff said.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Question of the Week

Emma's Wedding presents yet another example of poor parental estate planning. Emma's unfortunately deceased daddy had sufficient money, but then unwisely invested in....a computer company! How dumb can you be? Computers? In Neeldom? Yeah. Computers. He sank the family 401K into risky investments. Regrettable, to be sure, but my question doesn't revolve around his bad financial decisions. Mummy Dearest wigs out at the thought of being poor - and yet....she refuses to consider getting a job herself. She's never worked before, so why start now?

Imagine yourself, age 50ish, no work experience, no training, and a powerful urge to not be hungry or homeless. What would you do?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Trust me, you don't want to use Google Image using 'pasties' as your search word. Trust me. Pasties are pronounced like 'past - teas'. NOT "paste - teas".

Betty Debbie's Semi-Traditional Cornish Pasties

pie dough (I made a double batch of regular Crisco pie dough)
salt and pepper
2-3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 rutabaga (or 'swede')
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 lb. beef stew meat - cut up in 1/2 inch pieces)
1 egg, whisked

Roll out pie crust into about 8-9 inch circle. Start layering filling, onion, potatoes, garlic, rutabaga, meat, salt and pepper and about 1 tablespoon butter, divided and dotted on top. Bring up sides to the top and crimp the edges together. Brush outside with egg wash. Bake at 400' for 15 minutes, then turn oven down to 350' and bake for another 45 minutes.

Verdict: I found them a bit heavy - but some of that is due to a heavy hand with the pastry crust. The filling was okay - Dr. van der Stevejinck liked it quite a bit, and plans to take the leftover one to work tomorrow for lunch.

Upcoming Review

Tuesday, June 29th. An Innocent Bride. Run off the road by a motorbike, Simon admits his love to Katrina 40 pages before the end of the book, banns are read, wedding of the year.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Emma's Wedding--Discussion Thread

The Dawson family home in Richmond is described as having all the 'mod cons' (modern conveniences). Besides hot and cold running water, flush toilets and electricity, what mod cons do you suppose this entailed?

When applying for a fairly menial part time job in the library, Emma discloses that she has 4 A-Levels. English Literature, Modern Art, French and Maths (yes, maths). Mind you, the girl is 27 years old - so we can assume these A-Levels are about 9 years oldish. What really tips the balance as far as her getting the job isn't the good grades, it's the fact that she lives in town, and thus has a local address to call her own.

Dr. van Dyke invites Emma out for dinner after she gets canned from the library and the medical centre. His pick-up line is "lobster is something one should never eat alone". Really? Is that sort of like the old axiom "never drink alone"?

As Dr. van Dyke is picking up Emma to take her to Holland (after her own mother has pretty much kicked her out of the house), Mrs. Dawson lays down a guilt trip on her daughter. "Don't forget your poor old mother," says Mrs. D. in a wispier voice than usual. Emma feels like a heel...but the dear doctor has seen right through to the creamy selfish center. He reassures Emma that her mother will be just fine with her old school chum/new roommate. "You may love each other dearly, but you are as unlike as chalk from cheese." Chalk and cheese...hmmm, sounds yummy! Actually, every time I see that phrase (which is a Neels standard), it makes my mouth dry up, and triggers a desire for a long tall drink of water.

Roele's real secretary in Holland may be getting on a bit in years, but she is not old-fashioned when it comes to technology. Nope. Mevrouw Smit (Roele calls her "Smitty"), has a computer that does e-mails! PLUS she has a fax machine. Very progressive of you, Betty. This is possibly the only mention of 'e-mail' in Neeldom.

Emma's Wedding - 2001

Emma's wedding was one of the last books penned by La Neels. It's got a little bit of everything, but it's also clear that The Great Betty was not quite at the top of her game. Even so, it's still a good read - if slightly forgettable.
We first meet Emma Dawson and her mother at the reading of Emma's father's will. We never find out what daddy died of, but evidently it was unexpected. He has left his dependents without two sticks to rub together. Daddy had unwisely invested the portfolio in what? Computers! Oh no! Not computers! Emma and mum are nearly, but not quite, bankrupt. In order to stave off impending bankruptcy, they are forced to sell the nice home with all the mod cons, the cars, the furniture and the family silver to stay afloat in a sea of insolvency. Mrs. Dawson is a typical Neels widow...selfish, check...whiny, check...lazy, check...same ol', same ol'. "I won't be shabby!" says Mum. Emma is left to take care of matters practical. What's practical is to move to the family vacation cottage in Salcombe. Mummy Dearest is not happy with the reduced circumstances. Oh, I almost forgot, Emma has a younger brother, James. He has a 'disappointing degree' in science and has taken a couple of years off to backpack around the world. Pay him no mind, this is the only time we'll hear about him. A few loose ends need tying up...cue the uptight boyfriend, Derek. Derek is involved in banking, and insolvency is not an attractive attribute in a potential mate. Time to dump Emma.
I do like Emma. One of the first things she does in Salcombe is to enroll in the library. You go, girlfriend. Editor: That's one of the first things I do when moving to a new town. She then goes shopping for dinner...stopping off at the patisserie where she encounters a strange man, with tousled hair and bristly chin, who stares at her, then takes a couple of pasties to go.
A new day dawns and it's time to get a job. Mum's small widow's pension won't cover all their needs, so Emma gets not one, but two, part-time jobs. Two nights a week she is to work in the local library (yay!) and two days a week she cleans vacation cottages. It's enough money to keep them going, but not so much time away from home, where our girl has to also do all the work (mum's got 'nerves'). One evening right at closing time, Mr. Stranger comes to the library to grab a copy of Rupert Bear for a insomniac toddler next door. Mr. Stranger hasn't brought his library card, but the librarian knows's Dr. van Dyke. He says "Well, well" in quite a satisfied tone upon seeing Emma again.
Derek comes to town to propose to Emma again. He's willing to graciously overlook the family's near brush with bankruptcy and join in happy matrimony...yadda, yadda. And here we get the greatest comeback for an unwanted proposal - "Get stuffed". Yup, that's what she said. Let's say it again. "Get stuffed!" Yea, that's never getting old. She is furious at Derek, so out she goes muttering about what a rat and a worm he is. Repeatedly. She bumps right into Dr. van Dyke, who offers his hanky and a quiet sit-down in his car. Dr. van Dyke remarks that her 'rat' is a snappy dresser. Hee hee.
Dr. van Dyke's sister comes to Salcombe for a holiday with her kiddies. They stay in one of the vacation cottages that Emma cleans. Emma takes the family swimming at the beach where the good doctor shows up and gets a treat. Emma in a flattering swimsuit. Woot! Emma invites Wibeke over to her cottage for tea. Tea with mummy. Afterwards she informs her brother, Dr. van Dyke, what a horror Emma's mum is. She's a ball and chain around Emma's neck. Yup. That describes her perfectly. She's almost enough to drive Emma to drink.
Emma runs into Dr. van Dyke buying pasties again...and he offers her a temporary job at the medical centre...which is nice since mum is going off for an extended visit with friends and taking her pension with her. The job is great while it lasts, but Dr. van Dyke seems to be keeping his distance. Jobs are now dropping like flies. She gets her notice at the medical centre, then she gets her notice from the library and finds a stray dog. What? She looses her jobs and adopts a dog? Taking on added responsibility at a time like that? That's our girl. Unfortunately she names it Percy. Percy. Dang. What a lame name for a dog. To cap off her run of bad luck, Mummy Dearest writes her a letter to let her know that she's bringing an old school chum back to live in the cottage with her and will Emma get lost? Thanks a lot, Mum. Dr. van Dyke stops by and offers his hanky again for another howlfest. Dr. van Dyke does a bit of fancy plotting footwork, and comes up with a job for her, back in Holland - working with his receptionist. Sure, she can bring the dog. Emma agrees, saying that if it doesn't work out she can come back. Dr. van Dyke has no intention of anything dire happening to his "darling Emma."
Emma settles into her new job just fine. Her new job doesn't entail anything of a technical nature - it's all menial work. Dr. van Dyke comes by on Saturday and takes Emma out for a very workmanlike tour of Amsterdam. He practically walks her off her feet, which is usually a job for 'worthy' housemen. He is tempted to give her a kiss, but the legendary iron control of RDD's stands him in good stead and he possesses his soul in patience.
Emma gets an official looking letter at work one day - "Hey Emma, please don't have your mail sent here." Yeah, about that. It's from the family solicitor (the one who read daddy's will) - Mrs. Dawson was killed in an auto-accident with her school chum. Who says there's no poetic justice for evil in Neeldom? Prime example here. Awesome prime example. Awesomely awesome.
Dr. van Dyke takes her back to England. He drops her at the solicitor's house and then returns for the funeral. Dr. van Dyke drives Emma down to Salcombe after the funeral where they proceed to co-habit the cottage, without benefit of chaperonage. Dr. van Dyke takes Emma out for a spot of dinner and proposing. Call me Roele (about time!). You've reached The Age of Reason...shall we enter into a marriage of convenience? Emma agrees...and Roele is secretly delighted - his Emma was going to marry him! This calls for a kiss.
And now for a wedding that is as completely unlike the false advertising on the cover as possible. Emma wears last year's suit and the only hat she can find in the village - the weather consists of a tearing wind and persistent rain. Not so much like the sunny weather and bride in white depicted on the cover, is it? The Harwick ferry is cancelled due to bad weather, so they take the Dover ferry, whereupon Emma gets sick and Roele takes good care of her. Emma does have a worry though...she's worried about what his parents will think of her. What if they think I'm an adventuress? The parents like her a lot, she impresses them with her knowledge of Latin names of plants in the garden, and the way she doesn't boast about it.
Roele gets a call for a house Rome. Rome, Italy. Emma's imagination starts working overtime - she imagines Roele taking care of a glamorous film star in a see-through nightie...which is fairly far-ish from the truth. And hey, isn't Rome where they used to have orgies? Back in ancient days, maybe - but orgies, nonetheless. Not that Emma is quite sure what goes on in an orgy, but she's pretty sure it involves beautiful women at some point. When Roele gets home Emma forgets to be cool and gives him a warm welcome...which soon leads to the gifting of some family jewels, in the form of a sapphire engagement ring. Yeah, sure, they're already married, but Roele is awooing Emma. Things have been going fairly swimmingly when a shadowy character is brought up to muddy the waters. A spiteful old biddy brings up an old flame of Roele's - Veronique...with a name like that you'd think she was the Evil Other Woman. Nope. Just a little muddy water. She's never really an issue, but hey, it gives Emma an excuse to run back to Salcombe...which gives Roele an excuse to meet her there for declarations of love and pasties. The end.
Rating: There's some fun to be had - in moderation. Emma was an appealing character for the most part. Mum was an evil stock character, but I did love her poetic ending. That alone makes this book just about worth it. Roele had some good moments of tousled hair and bristly chins, pasties and plotting. Overall I think I'll give it a boeuf en croute.
Fashion: Jersey dress, in pleasing shade of blue, straw hat and swimsuit, tweed jacket and skirt, cashmere twin set, sapphire blue dress, homemade rhubarb wine, last years suit and the only
Food: Sunday chicken, pasties (3 times!!!), crab sandwiches, peach melba, zuurkool, smoked eel, Welsh rarebit, a mountain of chips, apple pie and cream, tea and crumpets, bread and butter pudding, fruit tarts, slippery bits and pieces.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Holiday Betty

This is vacation week for both of the Founding Bettys. Betty Keira headed south, Betty Debbie is going east. We're both gone until Sunday. Never fear, we spent much of last week getting ahead...we are going light (and possibly 'lite') on posts - generally only one per day, with the exception of Tuesday. That's when we'll be posting the only review we're doing this week...Emma's Wedding, and the discussion thread. We will be checking in throughout the week - we're pretty sure that the interwebnetz are somewhat available in our chosen locations.

Since Betty Keira is going to a wedding, and it IS Weddings with Betty month, I'm hoping she gets a good "Betty in the Wild" photo. I'll be working on finding cool locations too.

If you get to go on vacation this summer, where are you going? What pictures will you take?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Betty Goes to Church

Sunday was better. For one thing, they would go back to St. Clare's after tea and church took up most of the morning. Eugenia, sitting beside Humphrey, paid no attention to the sermon at all; she was working out the next lot of off-duty in her head, wondering about the patient with the thoracotomy, and thinking, rather to her own surprise, about Mr. Grenfell.

-Heidelberg Wedding

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Betty Goes to the Movies

Last night I went to see Toy Story 3 with Dr. van der Stevejinck and a couple of teenage boys. Loved it. Loved. It. The teenage boys even loved it.

I'm not going to give a review of it or rate it...plenty of professionals have done that. I am also not going to give any spoilers...except one teeny tiny one. Mrs. Potato Head is referred to as a "one-eyed Betty". Had to share. There you go.

The Mystery of Year's Happy Ending

The Founding Bettys do not get caught up much in blog monitoring. We don't often check our stats and we're not obsessive about how many hits we get in a day. But we couldn't help but notice a brain-teasing trend. Lots and lots and lots of visitors (not Bettys in the strictest sense, just passers-by) first visit through the portal of Betty Debbie's review of Year's Happy Ending.

As it was our very first review, here at The Uncrushable Jersey Dress, it clearly shows signs of age. The Founding Bettys had not hit our bloggy stride yet, and it shows. As a post it is quite short, has few pictures...The locations that hit it are seemingly random and we've combed over it looking for interesting key words...

So, why does it keep coming up in people's searches? Surely a head-scratcher for the ages.

Maybe the World Cup is the culprit.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Betty and the Real World

Heidelberg Wedding has too many references of the real world for me to list them all. Surprisingly, this book did not feel like a travelogue because of it. Anyway, here are a few:

When Hatty the Handmaiden falls in love, Eugenia thinks to herself that she feels as old as Methuselah's wife which reminds me of Porgy and Bess's It Ain't Necessarily So...
Methuselah lived nine hundred years
But who calls that livin'

When no gal will give in

To no man what's 900 years
Eugenia's father is a bit of an old dear. He is very engaged in her life but he shares a habit that most Neels father's have. He's a old book collector (which hobby, Gerard ruthlessly exploits to gain his affection). His favorite book sellers are in Charing Cross Road which, as any Harry Potter-phile will tell you, is where the Leaky Cauldron in located. Such establishments as Any Amount of Books, Blackwell's, Murder One and Silver Moon were (or still are) based there. Lovely names all. If I owned a book shop it would be called: Betty Slept Here (I spent 20 whole seconds thinking that up.) What would you call yours?

In Heidelberg we get brief mention of a street called Philosopher's Way. I was hoping that it would mean one particular philosopher (who maybe leapt to his tragic death at the top of a precipice nearby--how grisly but fascinating that would have been!) but it was named for the students at Heidelberg University when student and philosopher were interchangeable terms. Which is really not as fun as it should be. Maybe we could start an internet rumor to spice things up.

At Heidelberg castle they come across a stone arch built in one night as a birthday present from Elector Fredrich the Fifth for his wife Elizabeth Stuart. (Isn't that just like a man to leave the shopping until the last minute?) Elizabeth (see right) is an interesting character whose love affair with her husband was, to all accounts, genuine. In the wiki article the arch doesn't get mentioned, possibly to make room for all the other things Fredrich had built for her--an English wing of the palace, a menagerie, gardens, a monkey house...Why say it in flowers when architecture can be your language of love?

The Secret Pool:

We have a patient who is thought to have kala-azar, but it turns out to be malaria. There's a spot (excuse the pun) of kala-azar to the left which is transmitted by the bite of a particular sand fly. Also called, briefly and locally, Jericho Buttons (they do look like buttons) and, more generally, leishmaniasis which is the bo-ring name. Kala-azar is the Urdu or Hindi or Hindustani name for it which literally means 'black fever'. I'd much rather tell people I'd been to India and brought back kala-azar--they'd likely think it was a woodwind instument instead of a disfiguring parasite...

At St. Bavo's Cathedral in Haarlem Fran listens to the organist play Fauré. No sooner written than done. Here. It's lovely. He, himself, described his Requiem as "a lullaby of death".

Fran is no musical slouch herself and has quite a repertoire on the piano. Delius, Chopin, Debussy, Cats and Me and My Girl. She has to trot her talent out with very little warning like a dog and pony show. This is why I learned the trumpet. No one ever asks you to play the trumpet.

Cinema Betty

Heidelberg Wedding didn't present any obvious movie parallels, but I did think that the way Gerard (he of the vaguely French name) circles his prey and plots meticulously and ingratiates himself with the right people had a certain amount of intrigue about it. One of my favorite flicks about intrigue is:
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

Am I alone in thinking that while the book devolves into a nihilistic revenge fantasy, the movie has Jim Caviezel and, more importantly, Jim Caviezel's abs? In the book, a miserable excuse for a man runs off with his Cyprian and festers in his hate--and though I loved the writing I wanted to chuck it across the room when it came to the moral of the story. The movie shows all his plotting and all his intrigue and, like Heidelberg Wedding, once he has won the girl from her laggard lover has a abrupt (very abrupt) courtship/elopement.

Thinking over the selection for The Secret Pool, I had a light bulb moment. Disabled children? Falling down stairs? Soulless and dead ex-wife tries to end a pregnancy for her own self-absorbed ends? Oh, I so have a movie that fits that bill and it's one of my faves:

Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

Gene Tierney's delicious overbite (see above, looming over hapless prey) chews the scenery in her stint at Ellen, depraved man-eater. She captivates a man with a disabled little brother. She then offs little bro in a secret pool (because handicapped kids are icky and hard work!), becomes pregnant in a bid to keep her marriage together (but that's such a bother too!), trips down a stairs to end that and then, when husband finally wakes from his fog, frames him for her own suicide. He is free at the end to find the mousy (Jeanne Crain, mousy?!) little sis of Ellen who he always loved in the first place. This movie is so many layers of awesome that it's a wonder the celluloid didn't scorch.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Secret Pool--Discussion Thread

Fran's wedding dress, we find out, is inspired by a picture of the wedding dress in child's picture book. I showed up at my future aunt-in-law's bridal shop (best boutiques in Southeast Idaho!), was tossed around a bit and selected the least chick-y one I could find. The upshot of all that austerity is that I don't think my pictures are very dated. Anyway, where did you find inspiration for your wedding dress? I'll be it wasn't in a child's picture book...about a mouse family.
When Litrik stays at Fran's aunts' house, she puts water, a tin of biscuits and an anthology of English verse on his nightstand. I'm not sure what else he could possibly need--unless some Rolaids (Wintergreen for me!) or Senokot would be in order. When guests come to my house, I point at the linen closet for extra towels and expect them to lift heavy things or paint every wall I own. Just ask Betty Debbie. We both graduated from the same fine institute of hospitality. Motto: Put your shoulder to the're family. [Betty Debbie] I think we're about due some time at my house.
The housekeeper at The Aunts' house scolds Fran for eating breakfast with Litrik 'such goings on!' - while dressed in her dressing gown. Fran defends herself by saying, "he's not the kind of man to tolerate goings on." Though you get the rotten feeling that if she'd been some helpless blonde, flinging herself into his arms, that he would have tolerated some goings on...

In Litrik's house there is a lift behind the staircase. Some home elevators are pneumatic vacuums which remind me of banking with my drive-thru teller. (Suuuuck.) Anyway, my first question was cost. What does a standard up-one-floor-down-another set a fellow back these days? At least 19,000 clams, that's what. On grocery shopping days I really wish I had a lift to bring the groceries up from the garage. Pretty sure $19,000 is a bit rich for my blood.
Speaking of shellfish...Fran is given 'pearls around the neck, stones upon the heart.' Not only is The Great Betty being unusually poetical, she is also perhaps referencing the folk tale that pearls bring tears. As I have mentioned on more than one occasion, pearls just aren't my thing--that they indicate a visual affinity with former First Lady Barbara Bush that a woman in her early thirties would do well to avoid. I like my pearls. They do go with everything.

Litrik tells Fran that Lisa became handicapped due to her mother's botched abortion attempt. Eek! This is fairly dark stuff for La Neels but I think that, having been a nurse, she would have seen this sort of thing happen. Here's the wiki excerpt about Dutch abortion law:
A controversial abortion law was passed in 1981 with single swing votes: 76 pro and 74 against in the Second Chamber and 38 pro and 37 against in the First Chamber. The law left abortion a crime, unless performed at a clinic or hospital that is issued an official abortion certificate by the Dutch government, and the woman who is asking for the abortion declares she considers it an emergency situation. The law came into effect on November 1, 1984..
Lisa would have been born much before this law and this would have been an illegal procedure.

The Secret Pool - 1986

The Secret Pool is a love it or hate it kind of book...for me, it's a bit of both. The story is engaging - but so is the emotional manipulation. Here goes:
Francesca Manning. Plain, lovely eyes and most importantly, mousy hair. Why is the mousy hair important? Just you wait. She's a bit of a Cinderella. After graduating from her training hospital in Bristol, she has come back to the nameless little market town to work in the Cottage Hospital and live out with her three aunts. The aunts took her in when she was orphaned at age 12 - and have raised her up with no expectation of marriage. She is to stick around and take care of them. As if that isn't enough, her worst nightmare comes to town. That would be Dr. van Rijgen. During one of his lectures she had the misfortune to fall asleep - and he? He had reduced her to a state bordering on hysteria. Yes, that's our hero. Charming. He's visiting at the Cottage Hospital because someone has some kind of infectious disease and that's his speciality. The infectious disease thing...scaring young nursing students is just a sideline.
Francesca gets an unexpected letter from her cousin Clare. Clare lives in...wait for it....wait...yup, Clare lives in Holland. Not only does she live in Holland, but she's also pregnant. The aunts can't really keep Fran chained in the they 'allow' her to go. Holland has a surprise in store for Fran...while out sightseeing one afternoon, guess who shows up at the cathedral? Dr. van Rijgen, that's who. Why? Why has he tracked down mousy little Fran? That's what Fran would like to know. "You want something, don't you?" Yes, he wants something, but he's not ready to tell her what. He does go back to Clare's flat with her and in front of Clare and her husband, invites Fran to spend the next day with him - sightseeing around Holland. That sounds fun! "Fran almost choked on the idea of having fun with Dr. van Rijgen."
Fran's Day Out. The day starts with a little melodrama. "Where are we going? Where are you taking me?" Fran is sounding like a character from a bad thriller...Dr. van Rijgen cuts to the chase. He's taking her home to meet someone special.
Fran: "Your wife."Dr. van Rijgen: "My wife is dead." Way to sugarcoat it, Doc.
**SPOILER ALERT** His wife may be dead, but he does have a daughter. Seven year-old Little Lisa only has 6 months to live. Don't expect any miracles here. She. Will. Not. Get. Well.
Fran is enchanted by Lisa - and acts totally natural with her. Another day out is scheduled...this time they go to the beach with Lisa...and enjoy walking on the beach with Lisa in her wheelchair Editor's Note: Believe me, this ONLY works because Lisa is small. Off-roading with a wheelchair is not fun with anyone who weighs more than you are personally willing to lift. Word.
Dr. van Rijgen invites Fran over for a farewell tea party...where everyone but her is exhibiting signs of suppressed excitement. And now we get the most businesslike proposition, I mean proposal ever. Litrik (we may as well call him that), would like to marry Fran so that Lisa will be happy during her final few months. A quickie annulment after the funeral, no harm, no foul. He knew she was the one to be Lisa's mama when he saw her getting her gold medal at nursing school graduation, a few months before. I guess he was blinded by her mousy locks...Fran is a dead ringer for the lead character of Lisa's favorite picture book. Mama Mouse. Gosh, I'd be delighted to marry someone who thinks I look like a mouse. And wants to ditch me in just a few months. Fran gives a startled yelp. I find that completely understandable. I'd yelp too. Litrik appeals to Fran's mother instincts or something... actually he plays the "Poor Dying Lisa" card. Effectively as it turns out. Fran agrees - in fact she practically signs a pre-nup.
Item 1. Must make Lisa Happy.
Item 2. Must wear wedding dress based on child's picture picture book.
Item 3. Annulment to occur soon after funeral of dying daughter.
Item 4. I'll write you a reference when it's all over.
Editor's Note: Her acceptance sort of bugs me - yes, it's nice of her, but it's of out of the blue. There's not really even a semblance of "let me think about it..." Arrangements move apace! Litrik drives Fran back to the nameless market town in the Cotswolds to help break it to the Aunts. He steamrolls right over their selfish bones in a way that is a joy to behold. At their remark that 'it's all so sudden' (which really could have been uttered by Fran) he explains that he's known her for years...which is true - if you count being a guest lecturer/scarer of young trainees as being acquainted. He leaves Fran with instructions to get her dress made, ala Mama Mouse and the wedding is to be in Holland in 3 weeks. A kiss good-bye (for practice, don'tcha know).The dress is finished, a few brief lessons in Dutch, and it's time for Litrik to come pick up Fran. He has some bad news. Lisa is not doing well, the six month estimate was too optimistic. Back in Holland, before the wedding, it's time to act like a happily engaged couple. If Lisa expects to see kisses, then Lisa shall see kisses. Fran even kisses Litrik back.
A visit to the Dominee is reassuring, he knows all about the MOC and approves. Yes, he approves of the sham marriage on the grounds of 'anything to make a dying girl happy'.
The wedding goes well...Litrik in a morning suit was every girl's dream of a husband...that's promising, I guess. The next morning dawns, and Lisa is brought to Fran's bed. Litrik joins them, in his dressing gown, so they can partake of morning tea en famille - which sounds charming. It reminds me of Sunday mornings when I was a kid and we all climbed on our parents bed to read the Sunday comics (or 'funnies' as we called them).
We shall skip over most of the next couple of months. Fran and Litrik pretend, for Lisa's sake, to be happily married. Fran spends time playing the piano when she needs to vent her feelings. New clothes are purchased...same old, same old.
During this time, Fran takes Lisa out for drives in the country. They stop at a little farmhouse for tea, and discover "the secret pool". Lisa adores the place, so Fran brings her often, and they sit on a log while Fran tell her fairy stories. There comes a day when Lisa isn't well enough to leave the house, then she can't leave her bed...Litrik stays home to be with her, then she dies. Editor: Don't say I didn't warn you! Fran tries to comfort Litrik, and he shuts her out - "What can you possibly know about it! You haven't had a child!" Cut the guy some slack, he just lost his daughter. Fran drives back to the secret pool...and discovers that she loves Litrik. That makes everything just a little sadder to me - she loved Lisa too, and now she knows that with her death she will have to leave the man she loves. Dang. Life is hard.
Litrik starts behaving more civilly after the funeral - he seems to recognize that Fran needs a little comforting too. She may need some comfort, but that doesn't stop him going off to Brussels for 3 days and not calling. Litrik does apologize for his standoffishness "Sorry I left you alone," says he, "You don't have to be alone to be lonely," says she. Ouch. He does unburden himself of the fact that Lisa wasn't really his daughter...umm...thanks. Turns out his dead wife had an affair before they married, got pregnant, tried to 'get rid of the baby', gave birth to a handicapped child then ditched the family (before going off to die herself, remember?), thus turning Litrik into a bitter and cynical man. Bitter and cynical about love and marriage, that is. He roundly declares that "love is a myth!" Fran disagrees - "look at your parents, look at the dominee and his wife, look at Cousin Clare - if you loved someone, you wouldn't talk such nonsense." He mockingly (grrr.)says that it's almost like she's speaking from experience. Well, duh.
Fran is having a hard time dealing with the limbo of post funeral/pre-annulment and snaps at Litrik...when he says they need to talk, she snaps back - no way José. Storming out the door, she heads up the stairs, and passes out - managing to knock herself out on the way down. Which was a pity, since we get out first glimpse of the softer side of Litrik " poor little Fran." Lucky for Fran that Litrik is a specialist in infectious diseases or something. Fran takes 3 weeks to recover and then heads back to visit The Secret Pool. Unfortunately the old lady who lives there is prostrate with a bronchial infection or something. Fran can't leave she doesn't. When Litrik gets home that evening he finds the household anxious about their missing Mevrouw. With Sherlock Holmesish skills, Litrik deduces the whereabouts of the missing Fran. He tracks her down, kisses her urgently, calls in the cavalry to take care of the old lady and takes Fran home. When they go back for a follow-up visit, Fran shows him The Secret Pool. This would have been a great time for joint declarations of love, but no...not yet. Fran doesn't pick up on his "this doesn't have to be the end." Dang.
A trip to Great Aunt Olda's 80th birthday party proves illuminating. Tante Olda is your typical Neels 'elderly'. She can ask questions that no one else will. Tante: "You do love him?" Fran: Yes, I love him soooo much. Tante: You want to have his chidren?Fran: Yes, oh yes. More than anything...Leave it to an aged aunt to wring straight answers - within hearing of Litrik. He couldn't have planned that better if he had tried, and I'm not ruling out that possibility. It's time for Fran to head back to England to renew her nursing career, right? I'm pretty sure that was part of the pre-nup...Litrik promised to write her a good recommendation if she lived up to her part of the bargain. Tickets are bought, good-byes to the servants are said, Litrik buckles her in the car to take her to the ferry at Hoek...and then drives off in the opposite direction. A conveniently empty road, Litrik pulls over..."I love you, here's your coat, sorry I was mean..." "You are a tiresome man, I can't think why I love you, but I do" Kiss, kiss. The end.
Rating: This is one of canon that makes a fairly regular appearance in the reading rotation. Why? That's a tough question. Litrik is often 'mocking', which I generally loathe in a man, but I'm willing to give him a pass on that. Why? Lisa. He has raised her as his own and done his very best to make her happy. She may not have been his biological daughter, but he didn't ever let be an issue in how he treats her. Because he loves her so much, it's a little easier to understand his grief and other words, he has reason to be like he is. Yes, The Secret Pool is a bit of a tear jerker, but sometimes, that's what I'm in the mood for. Thankfully not often. It gets a good solid boeuf en croute.
Fashion: Ivory satin wedding dress based on child's picture book illustration, Jaeger suit, jersey dress with a wildly expensive belt, leaf green cotton dress with wide white collar, expensive clothes bought with an eye to bankrupting Litrik.
Food: Crusty roll and hard boiled eggs, sausage rolls, bite-size sandwiches, chicken vol-au-vents, orange squash, smoked salmon, devilled crab, trifle, pavlova cake with pear and raspberry filling.