Friday, June 1, 2007
Yammering on about The Shuttle
I awoke today, without any house guests, and eager to return to the blogging world to visit my favorites blogs and write a bit about my experience with The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I began my time online by visiting Karen who has commented quite eloquently on the recent Persephone Books letter dated May 30. I think this line from the letter sums it up:
Hurrah for blogs, we say – but only if they are never mistaken for anything but yammering.
Pardon me? I cannot possibly say what Karen has any better but would like to add a few thoughts of my own. I'm not quite sure how Persephone thinks they have any sort of following in the US. I know for certain they have had a few mentions in Domino Magazine. Besides this, I am not sure where intelligent, literate Americans are supposed to hear about these books. Persephone suggests that what the critics and reviewers have to say is all important but they are not writing about Persephone books here. How else is one to learn of them? Let me tell you how. When I became interested in these books, naturally I googled them and what sites do you suppose came up? Book blogs, of course. Yarnstorm, Random Jottings, Cornflower, I could go on. Aside from Persephone's own site, these are the places to connect with other Persephone readers, to read reviews and 'talk' about these books. No one else in my everyday life is reading them. I believe Persephone has done their readers and their company a great disservice by publishing this condescending letter. As Elaine commented on Karen's post "talk about biting the hand that feeds you...". And all this comes just as my husband has offered to buy 3 more titles for my upcoming birthday.
So today I have chosen to share the above photograph of another copy of The Shuttle which I do own. I love the attached sticker on the cover. There is a full page illustration inside entitled "I am that unfortunate beggar, Mount Dunstan, myself."
I did love this book. For those who do not know, the plot entails Miss Betty Vanderpoel - a rich, beautiful charismatic New Yorker, traveling to England to find out whatever has become of her sister Rosalie. Rosalie, a sweet and simple young lady, married Sir Nigel Anstruthers some years earlier. He married her in the hopes of gaining access to her fortune. I was considering starting another post, in which I could discuss the plot more so as not to ruin it for others. I am not sure if that would be desirable or not.
This book is long and descriptive but quite readable. The first 100 pages or so is very positive towards Americans, in terms of their industry and work habits and general 'get it done' attitude that America has always been known for. Betty arrives in England and travels to her sister's home. At this point in the novel, it becomes somewhat of a love letter to the English countryside, describing the villages, great houses, and beauty of the land with great love. It is clear Burnett had respect and love for both countries she lived in. Nigel is both a wonderful and horrible bully of a man, wonderful in that he is written so well. It's hard to believe this character was written over 100 years ago and is so absolutely detestable. The book has the appropriate amount of melodrama and I was truly guessing how it would end, up until the very last moments. The only parts I found difficult were those in which the 'lower classes' were spoken to or of as lesser beings. I really had to remind myself of the period and move on. Having read this, I am certainly interested to know if there are other adult books by Burnett worth seeking out.
Edited to add: Persephone has changed the letter that appears on their site. The quote I have included above regarding 'yammering' is no longer there, but it was at one time, and there are others who can attest to it.