[identity profile] theladymoppet.livejournal.com
I recently snapped up reasonably-priced copies of PR and CT and re-read them for the first time in quite a few years. Here are some of my thoughts:

1. The Bronte discussion in the library in PR is fascinating but are we really supposed to agree with Karen that Gondal and Angria were a complete waste of time? Charlotte gave up Angria but it's an obvious influence on the Rochester backstory in Jane Eyre. I seem to remember from Juliet Barker's biography of the Brontes that Wuthering Heights is much more of a Gondal story than it seems as the Gondal setting was similar to Yorkshire. If Gondal and Angria were essential to the published works, weren't they a necessary part of the Brontes' creative development? Has critical opinion changed on this in the decades since PR was published?

2. When Peter pins Nicola down and twists her arm behind her back, it seems cruel and out of character for him. It could just be that he hasn't quite realised that he is getting too strong to fight with her like they did as children - but then I remembered that Foley does something similar to Nicola in TMATT and I wondered if Peter was subconsciously copying him. Foley gets mentioned in PR (because of the treachery theme coming up again I guess) and it's stated that Peter doesn't remember all that happened. I wondered if the arm-twisting incident was something he internalised and is now acting out - so that, whatever he says, Foley is still an influence on him.

3. Cricket Term - how far ahead is Karen planning? She tells Nicola that Colebridge Grammar is one of her arguments for staying in the Tranters' cottage. I wonder if she is looking ahead to starting a family of her own, because if they save on school fees and/or her family waive the rent for the cottage it makes it harder for Edwin to say they can't afford any more children. I can't see him being keen on going through the dirty nappy stage again and maybe she is already thinking how to counter his arguments?

Otherwise, I'm not sure why Karen is so keen to stay near to Trennels. Edwin doesn't get on that well with her family and you would think they'd do better making a fresh start further away.

The Dodds

Dec. 4th, 2008 08:58 pm
[identity profile] nickwhit.livejournal.com

Found this discussion on AF elsewhere, in which someone said how much they'd hated the Dodds. And I suddenly thought 'yes! me too!'. Whilst I loved certain things about RMF (Nicola collecting The Idiot, riding home and the fight with Lawrie; the bathroom conversation after Kay's dropped her bombshell), I invariably speed-read through all the Dodds episodes (especially the rescuing-Fob-from-the-wreck episode), even the climactic rescuing of Rose. I felt the same about the Edward storyline in RAH - the more that takes off, the less I'm interested.

For me, AF is at her best not when she's driving forward a plot, but for the way in which she manages to convey her characters' inner life. (Sometimes I think my favourite book is Falconer's Lure, where there is no one major story arc.) And the Dodds, for me, in both books where they feature at any length, are essentially plot devices.

Am I being unspeakably harsh? How does everyone else feel about them?
ailbhe: (books)
[personal profile] ailbhe
I have only managed to think of two.

Now, I freely admit that The Ready-Made Family disturbs me for good and personal reasons. Nonetheless, I find the character of Edwin Dodd almost entirely without redeeming social importance... with the possible exception of these: )
[identity profile] tabouli.livejournal.com
Some questions for the Forest Folk:

1. In Cricket Term, Miss Kempe suggests that Lawrie read Fellowship of the Ring to give her a better idea of the sort of creatures Ariel is. On which creatures do you think she wanted Lawrie to model her performance? Surely not the hobbits, who are of the rustic, earthy persuasion. But who, then? The Black Riders fit the "almost immortal but less than human" bill, but they're also menacing and creepy, which Ariel isn't (not from my dimly remembered reading of him, anyway). The ethereal, melodious elves, perhaps? (I also wonder about AF's take on LOTR, writing that into Cricket Term. Did she read much fantasy?)

2. In Ready-Made Family, Peter refers to Edwin several times as "your old man". Are there parts of the Anglophone world where "your old man" is used for "your husband", or is Peter using it in a more literal sense, because to him Edwin is so old? In Australia, "your old man" is, as far as I know, only ever used to mean "your father".
[identity profile] geebengrrl.livejournal.com
There are three things that always troubled me a bit about this book:
a) Why did Karen suddenly up and marry an older man, with kids, and chuck in her degree;
b) Why is Edwin such as bastard; and
c) the cooling of relations between Rowan and Karen

I re-read the book over the weekend, and I came up with a few theories, so thought I'd put them out there and see what the general opinion is.

(a) Why did she do it?
At the time the book was written, the '60s were beginning to make themselves felt. There are references to dolly birds for example, and things pointing to a gap widening between youth and age. I get the feeling that Karen is quite old-fashioned. She's studying Classics (and she studies - in Peter's Room she's spending her whole xmas vacation pouring over the books), her sisters refer to her as "straight", she doesn't seem to be partying her time at Oxford away. Could it be then, that Karen found she didn't want to be part of this brave new world that was opening up - she doesn't seem the type for pop music, free love, drugs etc and she doesn't seem to have any friends at Oxford. Does it make sense that she saw an academic career was not going to be what she wanted, not because she doesn't want to be an academic, but because she doesn't like the way academia is going (maybe she even has inklings of the coming tide of post-modernism). If you're 19 and a young fogey and not a particularly good "coper", is it an easy solution to your problem to marry a much older man whose interests seem to align more with yours, so that you can feel more comfortable in your skin?

(b) Why is Edwin such as bastard?
I think you can understand Edwin a little better if you think a bit deeper about the class issues involved. I'm basing this on a few things: Edwin reads the Guardian, he drives a fairly ordinary car*, Karen calls him "love"**, and they send the kids to the village school and the Colebridge grammars. This, to me, points to Edwin possibly being a lower-middle-class grammar school boy made good; but with a bit of a radical/lefty edge. So part of the reason he comes across as such a bastard is that he's wrestling with an internal conflict - he's married a woman who comes from all he despises (money and privilege); AND he's under obligation to the ruling classes because he's staying in their house, eating their food, and having his kids minded by them. Peter's behavior to him is not just a kid being cheeky to an adult, but a member of the ruling classes trying to assert their power over the proletariat. Edwin wants to assert himself in the face of the Marlows' privileged existence, but his radical identity is being swamped by sheer weight of numbers.

* Edwin drives a Hillman Minx, a fairly ordinary, mid-priced British car manufactured from 1947 to 1960.
** I tend to associate this with lower-middle / working class speech. While it comes from Karen in this context, I am speculating that she calls him that because he calls her that. It contrasts to the Marlows, who are always "darling" when an endearment is required.

(c) Why do Karen and Rowan fall out?
In Peter's Room, there is a discussion between Nicola and Rowan in which Rowan admits that, while farming is OK, the staying at home bit of it is very very dull. I get the impression that she is longing for excitement and the company of people her own age - and that maybe she thinks Karen has all that because she lives away from home at Oxford.

Now Karen arrives home, announcing that she is throwing all that away to get married. She announces this just after Rowan has watched someone have a major stroke, has a looming farm disaster (swine fever), which she now has to cope with alone; and also is facing the long term prospect of taking on the farm herself, aged 18 with 8 months experience under her belt, or possibly having to give it up. Yet everyone is running around paying attention to Karen, for the whole book.

So I think Rowan is angry for two reasons: (1) She is going through a bloody hard time with no support; and (2) she is facing the prospect that leaving school to go farming may have been a mistake, she may have to give up farming anyway, she has no A-levels so she's not going to get to university, and here's Karen throwing away the the things that Rowan gave up, to get married AND getting all the attention.


Maybe I'm thinking too much. But it's a plausible explanation to me, and I'm interested to know what you think.
[identity profile] tabouli.livejournal.com
Reading through people's comments on the last post, I found myself musing on the fathers depicted in the Marlow series. Even though none of them play a major role, there's quite a range.

The omniabsent Commander Marlow seems the kind of father who sees putting an expensively framed cabinet portrait of the family in his room as a substitute for taking leave to see them (see also Nicola's preference for a photo of Giles' ship and Nelson over photos of her family members?), but otherwise appears a friendly, no-nonsense sort of fellow. You have to smile at his pragmatic military preference for Nicola's crew cut in Falconer's Lure.

Arguably the most negative depiction of a father in the series is Mr Hopkins. When Berenice proclaims Meg's tormented family life to the masses, Meg shifts from being a workaholic nonentity to a disturbing reflection of her father's abuse, reinforced by his brief, dour cameo near the end of The Cricket Term (in which Forest hints that he also abuses his wife). On the subject of pastoral care at Kingscote, it's faintly reassuring that the school did attempt to intervene on Meg's behalf, even though it didn't succeed.

Mr West is warm and engaging; Mr Merrick is wry and genial, and seems to have a pretty healthy relationship with his son, where Patrick respects the boundaries he sets and wants his approval without fearing him. Our fleeting glimpse of Mr Todd suggests to me a conservative pillar of community type who indulges and secretly enjoys the eccentricities of his wife. Then, of course, there's Edwin, who is the only father whose parenting we see centre stage in the series.

There was a very interesting discussion of Edwin on Girl's Own in 1998 or so, which revealed a divide among Forest fans. Some would have happily had him locked up for the riding crop scene; others agreed that this was appalling behaviour, but allowed him more leeway. He is certainly a stern and authoritarian parent, though when he see him he is under a lot of stress and seems used to being the disciplinarian half of the parental team: see Rose's appeal to Mrs Marlow when he pushes her to stop reading and go outside. I'm not sure what I think of him as a parent, but he's certainly an interesting and complex character.

What do other people think about Edwin, and Forest fathers in general?

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