66. Theo by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Having read and enjoyed four of Burnett’s books multiple times as a child, I thought it was time to try one of her apparently ‘adult’ books. (I.e. written for grown-ups, rather than having anything unsuitable in them.) I didn’t like this book as much as I had thought I might, in many ways because I didn’t feel she had chosen consistently whether it was to be aimed at children or adults. I’m a big proponent of the idea that good children’s/YA literature is just good literature, but with the book I felt we were getting a lack of focus, which did the story a disservice. This was, I think, supposed to be in some ways a ‘coming of age’ novel, with a compulsory romance thrown in, but Theo remained so passive that I wasn’t much impressed.
67. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
68. What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge
2010: 4. What Katy Did Next by Susan Coolidge
Now these three really were rereads of a series I think I always had. I have read the fourth in the series (Clover, focussing on Katy’s next-in-line sister) once, but I’d never managed to find the fifth (and final, so far as I know) book, In the High Valley, so when that came up on Librivox, I thought I should listen to the whole series, straight through. Unfortunately, Clover is still being worked on, so I haven’t listened to that or In the High Valley yet. (I don’t feel I know the story of that one enough to skip it now, as I might have done with one of the first three.) Hopefully it’ll come through soon!
Anyway – about these books! These three are decidedly about the same main character, but there is a different tone (and very different setting) to each book. The first presents us with twelve-year-old Katy Carr, the exuberant eldest of a family of six children, being brought up by their widowed doctor father and his sister, Aunt Izzie. Katy wants to ‘be good’, but rarely thinks through the consequences of her actions. For the most part her ‘scrapes’ lead her into loveable folly, until the day she suffers a nasty fall, and is confined to first her bed and then her bedroom for several years. The second half of this book is about her dealing with the pain and other suffering involved in her condition, and how she manages to bring the world to her, considering she can’t go out to it.
The second book takes up about a year after the end of the first: Katy has got her strength back, but her education and socialisation have suffered, and her father sends her and Clover off to boarding school for a year, so that they can be girls among girls for a while. (By this stage Aunt Izzie had passed away, and Katy had been running the household.)
In the third book Katy at 21 is a young woman, and a capable manager. Mrs Ashe, a young widow with a small daughter (Amy is about seven) has befriended the Carr family and become particularly enamoured of Katy. When she decides this is the right time for a tour of Europe, she begs Dr Carr to be allowed to take Katy as her companion, to support Mrs Ashe in any of the difficulties of the trip, at Mrs Ashe’s expense.
Katy does change from novel to novel (as well as within the first novel especially), but mostly it’s a reasonable growth and maturity, within the ideals of the time. Although the adult Katy is a kind, caring, moral, capable and idealistic woman (all of these good things), she retains plenty of spunk and verve, and to me, at least, is still a very interesting character.