Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Girl With Green Eyes - 1990

"She looked up then, straight at William, and smiled at him. It was the kind of smile Boadicea might have had on her face as she led the Iceni into battle." It's quotes like this one that raise The Girl With Green Eyes to a higher level than it otherwise might be at.

Lucy Lockitt (age 25) is a pretty girl with abundant pale brown hair and beautiful green eyes that glitter like emeralds when she's mad. Older sister Imogen is junior executive material, younger sister Pauline, who is engaged to the pompous Cecil, works at a trendy art gallery, the kind that is frequented by rich Arabs. Their father is THE Gregory Lockitt, archaeologist, who travels the world with his wife. Lucy has been working in an orphanage for the past four years...which work is constantly referred to by her family as her 'little job'. With a family like hers, it's no wonder our girl is a bit shy.
Dr. William Thurloe (age 35) is a paediatrician who consults at City Royal Hospital, which is where he and Lucy meet for the first time...and fall in love. Lucy is there with hydrocephalic orphan Miranda. There is no mention of his family, but he does have a devoted couple, Mr. and Mrs. Trump, who work for him.
The Widow Seymour, aka Fiona, is a conniving woman who will never see 30 again. She would dearly love to be William's wife - and to that end is constantly grasping at him. To William's credit, he really doesn't give her any encouragement. Lucy thinks to herself that Fiona is 'all gush and black velvet'.
Alice: In a very Brady move, La Neels has given us a perfect British take on the confiding cook cum housekeeper. Alice is more loving and protecting of Lucy than anyone else - a fact which William picks up on. When Alice gets excited she drops her aitches.
Act I:
Lucy falls in love at first sight with William - but very quickly sees what she perceives as competition - in the form of The Widow Seymour. By page 25 we get a glimpse of William's daydreams - which include a jumble of ridiculous thoughts...nurseries, rice pudding, children other words, marital bliss with Lucy. Lucy and William happen to be on an approximately even social plane - and if you imagine their social circles as a Venn Diagram, you would see that they definitely overlap. Overlap enough to go to the same parties. Which is where they meet up again - outside the confines of orphanage or hospital. Lucy tries some plotting and planning - so that she can 'accidentally' run into William while he's walking his dogs.

Act II:
Holland. The Venn Diagram overlaps a little more with the introduction of Francesca and Litrik. Cross-over characters from The Secret Pool. Fran shares a bit of revisionist history about Lisa...the little girl who was raised as her husband's daughter (but wasn't), and then DIED...and now they have a baby girl named after her. William went to med school with Litrik, Lucy went to school with Francesca (before she went to live with her three aunts).
Lucy dreams of doing something clever so that William will notice her.
Act III:
Back in England no one cares what Lucy did on vacation, it's all about wedding plans for Pauline and Imogen. The idea of having a large wedding is becoming less and less appealing to Lucy. Lucy goes out to dinner with Pauline and her pompous fiancee and his even more pompous brother at The Savoy. William and Fiona happen to be at the same restaurant (Venn, baby, Venn). Fiona is catty towards Lucy, twitting her about her single status. Lucy retorts with a bit of poetry by John Burroughs:

Serene I fold my hands and wait, Nor care for wind or tide or sea; I rave no more 'gainst time or fate, For lo! my own shall come to me.
The fact that Poetry is Lucy's strong suit (this is not her first time spouting rhymes) and leaves Fiona floundering will become a crucial plot element later on...It's a good thing that William loves Lucy, otherwise this could have been a dangerous development. As it is, he finds her poetic abilities charming. Editor's Note: I adore this line from Pride and Prejudice about poetry and love: "I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love! Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may [be the food of love]. Everything nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it away entirely." and now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...
It's time for a little action! The orphans get Legionnaires Disease! This will require a boatload of overtime on the part of Lucy and ends with her getting to spend a few days back at City Royal with Miranda. William takes her home to his house every afternoon for lunch and a nap, which is quite sweet. Fiona drops in one afternoon and spends her time making barbed remarks to Lucy - which she wisely ignores. William is just perceptive enough to remark (after Fiona leaves) that the two don't like each other. Truer words, William, truer words...He then goes on to clearly explain that The Widow Seymour does not now, nor ever has meant anything to him, and by the way, will you marry me? Lucy needs a little time to think. The darling boy forgot to say the magic words. I love you.
Act IV:
After all the overtime Lucy has put in, she's given a week off. Goody, says Imogen. You can plan the welcome home party for mum and dad. She still hasn't given William an answer, in fact she has seen neither hide nor hair for days. He doesn't call, he doesn't write...surely if he cared...He doesn't even make it to the party, although The Perfidious Widow Seymour does. She makes a calculated gamble and tells Lucy that William is back at her place...for the weekend (which seems to have Brightonish overtones). This is not your garden variety muddying of waters, no, Fiona is pouring toxic waste directly into the River of Love. The Widow Seymour then tells William that Lucy is about to get engaged to young Joe Walter. He'd like to see Lucy about that, but she's gone into the witness protection program and is hiding out. Yes, Fiona and her tissue of lies has wreaked havoc.
Lucy gets let go from the orphanage - and is not even given the option of volunteer work. Her family is delighted that she free from her 'little job'.
At a party given by someone to honour her dad for something, William keeps an eye on Lucy - he notices that she isn't spending any time with young Joe Walter...he would like to talk to Lucy, but she's in full avoidance mode, so he writes her a note and asks Trump to mail it for him since he's on his way to Holland. Fiona stops by for one last try at him and sees the letter. While she's ready to admit defeat when it comes to William (and run off with a wealthy, though unattractive American), that doesn't stop her from trying to spike Lucy's guns. The Thieving Widow stuffs the letter down her dress and then hustles over to Lucy's house and reads part of it to her - substituting her own name. William had gone so far as to quote poetry in the letter which was quite romantic, but lost on Fiona. Meanwhile, Trump has discovered the theft so he high-tails it over to Lucy's house and tells her that Fiona stole a letter addressed to her. Lucy immediately realizes that the poetry was meant for her, so she wangles William's schedule from Trump and flies to Holland!
She then borrows a car and driver from Fran and Litrik and tracks William down. Love is declared, kisses exchanged and then a small request from Lucy, 'would you mind if we got married before my sisters?' 'I not only don't mind, I insist'. The End.
Rating: I like so much about this book. Lucy is a regular girl. Sure, she's pretty, but she isn't vain about it - not with sisters like Imogen and Pauline around, and her mother - all of whom reinforce the idea that she isn't clever and doesn't make enough of herself. I like the fact that she's held a job for four years despite her family's derision. William at times is quite delightful - even though his characterization lacks depth (I am left feeling that The Great Betty just didn't flesh him out quite enough). The Widow Seymour is deliciously evil - her scenes with Lucy are some of the best in the book. After the review I did last week (When Two Paths Meet) with a hero that spends way too much time with 'the other woman', I'm glad that William is much clearer about his lack of intentions towards Fiona - and in fact has few actual dates with her. There is no earth-shattering action (for Pete's sake, they quote poetry at each other!), but in spite of - or perhaps because of that, the book mostly works for me. It helps that the ending of the book is quite adorable. Queen of Puddings!
Fashion: Sandals from Raynes that are cripplingly tight, rust velvet dress, mohair sweater in shades of green to match her eyes, brown velvet suit with Liberty scarf, amber silk with long full skirt and ruched chiffon bodice, grey dress that is elegantly demure - which she wears again and again because William likes it.
Food: Chopped egg and cress sandwich, Madiera cake, fish salad, lamb chops with new potatoes and green peas, chocolate mousse with orange, lobster tartlets, roundels of lamb, caramel mousse with a coulis of raspberries, grilled sole and spinach (because Miss Imogen wants to lose 1/2 a stone before her wedding), cheese tartlet, chicken casserole, mountainous cream cake, apple tarts, potato soup with out of this world flavor, creamed chicken, vol-au-vents with salmon mousse, shrimps chopped with scrambled eggs, petit-fours.


  1. Not sure exactly why she did this, but the Fran?Litrik/Lisa story is where I find two glaring inconsistencies in the Great LaNeels. The story about Lisa is different every time. Not that it really matters, doesn't change a thing about the plot, I just notice things like that. Perhaps there were just so many stories and so many details in each it just slipped though.

  2. I've read the book twice now, but I've had trouble really liking it. I loved the poetry and William carrying Lucy when her shoes were too tight and the fact that she worked so hard for the orphans. But Lucy got a bit tarnished for me when she "accidentally" meets William in his neighborhood park and also when she didn't answer the door when he called on her. She was lucky he loved her.

  3. Betty Barbara here--
    I'm with Katie on this one. I actually had a hard time with this book. I found Lucy to be my second least favorite Neels heroine type (my least favorite is the prickly snippy type--Samantha-I'm looking at you!) Lucy at times acts way younger than her age--that tracking the doc to the park is soooo high school!) Yes, she often tells herself to act her age and then blows it! And I got very, very tired of the "I'm not clever" bit. Very Very Tired. She has a warped idea of what "clever" is, thanks to her family--but still... However, chops to her for getting her job and sticking to it.
    A lot of the scenes between William and Lucy are charming and the ending is great--so that keeps the book in the middle of the pack rather than towards the bottom.
    I doubt I'll re-read it any time soon, though.

    ETA: oh my goodness--my verifier is a real word! How strange!

  4. I thought that "The Secret Pool" story was deliberately changed. I enjoyed reading so much about Fran and Litrik post-TSP(TSP stills verges on maudlin though--yeah, yeah, yeah I hear the protests).

    The concerted effort to run into William in the park I found funny. I only did one of the these stunts once--I was a doctoral student around age 23-24. Mine probably WAS so high school (and it didn't work *sigh and could have been enormously embarrassing)--but it made me laugh when she did it.

    Does anyone else's verifiers sometimes look Dutch?

  5. I used to do very very very (insert a few more lines of "very" for emphasis) embarrassing things, including one supremely embarrassing thing I did as the result of a crush I had on a radio announcer at Holy Cross College. (I went to Clark University at the time -- across town.)

    I will spare you the supremely embarrassing details (campus police were called, although I hasten to assure you I did nothing illegal per se, and even if I had, the statute of limitations has run by now), but I'm pretty sure that the guy I had that crush on ended up being the "new" (as in "New Coke") Captain Kangaroo for one season ten years ago.

    Or it could be someone else, but I strongly suspect it's the same guy.

  6. Hah! I finally figured out the right combination of stuff to put into Google to prove (to my satisfaction) that the guy I had a crush on almost 40 years ago is the actor/opera singer (who knew?)/narrator of -- among other things -- the Jan Karon Mitford books.

    Hey, at least I have good taste when I have a crush on someone...

  7. Just read this one - I loved it.... - William is just delicious. All the shoe scenes were just awesome... He's Smooth without being conceited, he never is rude (except that one time that he's tired when legionnaire breaks out and immediately apologies) What a guy!

    I LOVE this part of the review and the book
    "the Widow Seymour does not now, nor ever has meant anything to him, and by the way, will you marry me?" Lucy needs a little time to think. The darling boy forgot to say the magic words. I love you. "

    -but I have to mention he did say "I want a wife and children to come home to.".... It wasn't as if he was saying hey I want separate rooms in the proposal... - Lucy is a dope here!.... - This was SOOOO un -Betty Neel I just had to love this book! The proposal and a kiss was on page 159... (unheard of!) -

    and then we get Fran and Litrik (fantastic part of the book) - though I know the whole Lisa part was "revised" but I think that Litrik and Fran know the truth and they just tell people that "revise" story for "social norms"... the real story is very SAD and requires a least 1 box of tissues - Who wants to tell that to friends on their holiday?.... - I give this book "lashings of Whip Cream" and the review too!

  8. I must be extremely strange, but I thought the "run into him at the park" thing was kind of cute, really. And I adored her kindness and compassion with little Miranda.

    If she took herself as less than she could have been, the blame's on the family, IMHO. I'm trying to remember -- was there another heroine who had a "perfect" family, brother and sister and famous parents or some such thing? *sigh* I used to have a memory ...

  9. Glaring inconsistencies mentioned by opramum, or:

    Poetic Licence 🧐

    It was at the end of the week, as she got off the bus and started the short walk to her home, that she came face to face with a girl of her own age.
    ‘Francesca!’ She gave a small shriek of surprise and delight echoed by the other girl.
    ‘Lucy, how lovely seeing you! You never answered my letter at Christmas— I’m actually on my way to see you.’
    ‘You’re here in London, on holiday?’
    ‘Litrik is over here for a seminar. Heavens, isn’t this fun?’ Lucy took her arm. ‘Come for a quick chat; how long are you here?’
    ‘We’re going back in three days’ time.’
    ‘The babies? Are they here too?’
    ‘Of course, and Nanny is with us. We’re at the Connaught.’
    They had reached the house and Lucy let them in and called to Alice, who came hurrying in to see who it was.
    ‘Miss Fran—my goodness, it's years since I've seen you!’

    🖋️ In THE GIRL WITH GREEN EYES Francesca from THE SECRET POOL appears as Lucy’s friend, though Lucy was never mentioned in THE SECRET POOL.

    She had met Litrik van Rijgen only twice before, at his wedding to Fran and during a visit they had paid to London just before the first baby had been born. When she saw him waiting for her at Schiphol she thought that he hadn't changed at all.

    🖋️ There is no mention of Lucy attending Francesca’s wedding in THE SECRET POOL.

    ‘She’s beautiful, Fran, and she has such a pretty name.’
    ‘Lisa— I asked Litrik if I could tell you about that and he said that he’d like you to know. You see, when I first met him he had a ward, a little girl with spina bifida.

    🖋️ Not so! She was his daughter, and it was not spina bifida.

    'I wish you would tell me why you've brought me here.'
    'Why, to meet my small daughter. She's looking forward to seeing you.'
    'Your daughter? I had no idea...'
    He said coolly, 'Why should you have? Shall we go in?'

    'Will you tell me about Lisa? It's not spina bifida—she's paralysed isn't she, the poor darling? Is it a meningocele?'
    He sounded as though he was delivering a lecture on the ward. 'Worse than that—a myelomeningocele, paralysis, club feet and a slight hydrocephalus.'

    Her father had died— he was a friend of Litrik’s— and her mother left her. So he became her guardian until she died soon after we married. She was a darling

    🖋️ Not true! Except that her mother left them. And that Lisa was a darling.

    My first wife had an affair before we married unknown to me. She was pregnant then. It wasn't until some weeks later that I found out quite by chance that she had done her best to get rid of the child without my knowledge.

    1. It doesn’t bother me that the story of Lisa changed over time. The true story was pretty awful, and a little poetic license is to be expected. What did bother me was this: Lucy was a close enough friend to have traveled to Holland to attend Fran’s wedding on short notice. How is it possible that Fran wouldn’t have mentioned even the existence of a daughter? Lisa wasn’t a secret, yet nobody mentioned her at the wedding? And how did Fran explain the hideous mouse dress? Who took the fashion hit for that- Litrik?

    2. Good point, Betty Meredith, Lisa would have been mentioned.
      The mouse wedding dress was not hideous, by the way. The dress maker remarked that she had never expected the dress to turn out quite so exquisite.
      Fran's future mother-in-law on the day of the wedding:
      'Delightful,' pronounced Mevrouw van Rijgen. 'That is the prettiest dress—how proud Litrik must be, my dear.'