[identity profile] lilliburlero.livejournal.com
Chapter 11: Gone Away )

Chapter 12: The Long Trail )

Chapter 13: A Home to Go To )

I'm sorry that I've posted so late this week (unexpected domestic happening). It strikes me that this is a good place to take a break, resuming with The Cricket Term in the New Year. (I notice that there are four Forest-related fics in the Yuletide collection, but there might still be some writers pursued by Yuletide bears, so it seems only fair to let them exit. Are the bears coughing, one wonders?)

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the guest posters: [personal profile] legionseagle, for leading the discussion on Peter's Room, [livejournal.com profile] highfantastical and [livejournal.com profile] sprog_63 for contributing posts on Falconer's Lure, and [livejournal.com profile] jackmerlin, for a post on Ready Made Family. Also to the mods [livejournal.com profile] coughingbear, [livejournal.com profile] ankaret and [livejournal.com profile] thewhiteowl, for model modliness, and to all the contributors to discussion. And to those who have been moved to fic! I've had a lot of fun so far, made some new acquaintances and learnt an enormous amount: I'm overwhelmed by the sustainedly enthusiastic and informed response. I'm looking forward to more in the new year. For now, though, sincere thanks again to you all, and wæs þu hæl.
[identity profile] jackmerlin.livejournal.com
Thank you to Lilibulero for letting me have a go at the wheel of the Readthrough. The Ready-Made Family is my favourite Forest book. I love the dynamics of a large family with an 'intruder' in their midst. So such as they are, here are my musings.
I tried to put in the lj cuts so it didn't all show at once, but for some reason they haven't worked!

To Meet The Dodds.

The chapter opens with Peter and Nicola reunited and having a conversation which is both very funny but also ominous at times, such as Selby’s witty but unfunny quote from Hamlet – the funeral baked meats furnishing forth the wedding feast. (As a slight aside, I wonder if Nicola is inspired by this remark to go and read Hamlet, because by Cricket Term she does know something of Hamlet.) Then they imagine if all of the girls had been bridesmaids and Edwin had to buy them all presents – a delighful but daunting idea for any future spouse. Then the funniest pair of lines – ‘ d’ you think there was a ghastly pause after Kay said And there’s another seven at home?’ ‘There was a gruesome ghastly pause after Kay said he’s forty-one with three children,’ – a reminder that neither party in this marriage is facing an ideal situation or an easy time.
Finally Peter points out to Nicola the painful truth that Patrick and Ginty are likely to be wrapped up in each other, and Nicola realises ‘that however certain you may be in your own mind of the truth of some disagreeable fact, it only becomes real when someone else … confirms it for you.’
So the Dodds are finally arriving and Mrs Marlow can’t meet them herself because she needs to wash her hair. Really? I thought ‘washing one’s hair’ was the classic excuse for not going out on a date you didn’t want to go on. Mrs Marlow asks Ginty to go, only Ginty is at her most unlikeable in this book, a self-centred and vain teenage brat. When Mrs Marlow gives up on Ginty with the comment that she doesn’t want the Dodds to feel unwelcome, Ginty is both ‘relieved but resentful’. This is such a true depiction of the teenage mind – Ginty doesn’t actually want to put herself out doing a job for someone else, but neither does she want her mental self-image to be of a mean, unfriendly person.
Both Peter and Ann show their understanding of the awfulness of this whole situation in different ways. Peter thinks as the train comes in ‘This is a very grotty happening. Someone should have stopped it.’ Indeed, but who? And Ann says sorry to Rose, meaning she is sorry that Rose’s parents have divorced, her mother has died and that she has had to leave her home and come and live with strangers. Imagine if the whole book was written from Rose’s point of view – it would be hard for any modern critic to complain that the story was all about privileged children. Rose’s story could be the entire plot of a Jacqueline Wilson book.
I love Nicola and Peter meeting the Dodds. We see them both at their best, I think, especially Peter thinking of buying the sweets to make them feel welcome. Peter is natural and easy with Fob who instinctively latches onto him. And then when Mrs Clavering is pulled onto the platform by Rose, Peter is quite masterful and assertive in insisting she comes to tea, while still being polite and charming and funny – possibly glimmers of officer material showing through.
Nicola and Peter are both obviously naturally ‘good with’ younger children. I wonder if, having always been ‘lower orders’ themselves, they find it enjoyable being ‘upper deck’ in turn. They are now being ‘Giles’ and ‘Rowan’ to versions of their younger selves. (Although I’m sure Peter will be far more kind and consistent with Fob than Giles was with Nicola.)
Chas is an immensely likeable child. The conversation he and Nicola have while walking home from the station is so well written. Chas has had both unthinkable things happen to him – parents divorcing and his mother dying, and he doesn’t have a clue really about what happens next. AF makes him so calm and resigned about it all, even though his questions make Nicola’s heart lurch. AF’s characterisation is so good, we have only just met Chas, and yet we already care about what happens to him, and it’s all done without a trace of sentimentality or ‘ickiness’.


Tea And Stables.

What do we make of Mrs Clavering? The Marlows and their mother whole-heartedly approve of her. From what we see of her at tea, it seems unfair to think that she would really have been turning the children against Edwin. Has Kay been encouraging Edwin to worry about something that hasn’t actually been happening?
Tea is a successful meal, and afterwards the children are ordered outside by Mrs Marlow for a walk which ends up with everyone except Rose enjoying themselves in the stable yard. Into this scene rides Ginty who proceeds to career across the yard and nearly crush Rose in the doorway. Ginty could perfectly well get off Catkin and hold him at the entrance to the yard until the others are out of the way, but with her head full of thoughts of Patrick she has to show off in front of her earthbound siblings. And why is Catkin so excitable when he has supposedly been out riding all afternoon? I suspect he and Blackleg have been tied up somewhere while Ginty and Patrick gaze into each others eyes, pretending to be Rosina and Rupert. Nicola, quick thinking and resourceful, rescues Rose: a forerunner of what is to come later in the book.
Ginty’s news that the Idiot Boy is for sale confirms for Nicola that Ginty and Patrick have been riding together, and as she usually does when upset, goes off on her own to fetch more sugar, firmly telling herself not to care – saying ‘ “Well – so what?” to herself at intervals.’ It reminds me of the time she had to repeat Sprog’s name over and over.
One of the themes of this book is Nicola maturing. In the conversation with her mother after Mrs Clavering leaves, she seems very young, and at her most Lawrieish. Her mother points out that Mrs Clavering’s daughters have been killed, and Nicola says ‘People don’t mind, do they, not as much, when they get older?’
While waiting for Edwin to arrive the conversation turns to the Idiot Boy and surprisingly Mrs Marlow tells them they can cash their savings to buy him. Has the stress of the wedding made her so distracted that she doesn’t care if two of her children who can’t even ride very well spend a serious amount of money on a pony? And the unfairness of Ginty getting Catkin is brought up yet again.
Finally the dreaded moment arrives, and Edwin is introduced, AF gives us a far more detailed description of his physical appearance than she usually does for any character. Is she making it clear that Karen hasn’t been swept away by good looks? And then the chapter closes; with a splendid economy of words, AF gives us the forbidding sentence: ‘It was no good. They didn’t take to him at all.’

Wedding And Breakfast.

Although the book is referencing ‘Persuasion’ throughout, the wedding reminds me very much of the wedding scene in ‘Jane Eyre’. It is early morning, the church is empty and gloomy and the clothes are drab. Nicola’s reflection over the point in the ceremony where the vicar asks if there are any reasons why the couple should not be wed, and Nicola wonders if anyone ever had, seems to suggest that someone should be stopping this wedding. Has Nicola read Jane Eyre or has she been put off the Brontes for life by the Gondalling?
Patrick, you complete b******. Couldn’t you even acknowledge your former best friend with a smile instead of staring gormlessly at Ginty? That would just be ordinary politeness, as Mrs Marlow might say.
A comic touch is provided by Ginty’s fantasies about clothes – something floaty and black laceish – really? In a church? And then imagining marrying Patrick in the Merrick’s chapel. Oh dear.
The family gather outside the church to see the couple off. The sense of resentment at an intruder making off with one of the family is perfectly expressed by the collective ‘stiffening’ at Edwin calling Kay ‘Katie’. Karen now has a life and a persona which excludes all of them, and even if they liked Edwin, they would still feel that sense of displacement.
Back home for a hearty breakfast, and I do enjoy the descriptions of Chas eating. What is it about small boys with huge appetites that makes them so charming? And the family disperse for the day. Ginty again kicks up a fuss about being asked to do something.
Is Ginty just being a teenager? Because I can’t help wondering, given how opalescent her character is, if spending all her time with Patrick is causing her to reflect Patrick’s personality – self-absorbed, arrogant, single-minded?
It could also be said that Patrick and Ginty are mirroring Karen and Edwin – both couples are obsessed with getting what they want, oblivious to how anybody else is affected.
Rowan in these chapters is rather ghost-like, appearing in silence at meals, and not saying anything, bearing all the weight of Trennels on her shoulders. Come on Mrs Marlow, it’s time you noticed!
The chapter ends with Nicola and Rose in the old playroom. I love the moment when Rose shuts her eyes, hoping for something magical to appear, and then, in a way, it does, with her discovery of a shelf of books that she can escape into. Rose gets to escape from all the uncertainties of her new life into these imaginary worlds, until the chapter ends on another perfectly expressed ominous note: ‘With the end of the honeymoon, however, matters were better ordered; as Rose had feared they would be.’
[identity profile] lilliburlero.livejournal.com
Again, my apologies for only just squeezing this in on the scheduled Friday (in my time-zone).

Chapter 1: Morning in the Conservatory )

Chapter 2: Surprise in the Afternoon )

Chapter 3: And So to Bath )

Chapter 4: Time Runs Out )

Right, enough of my old waffle. Next week [livejournal.com profile] jackmerlin will be doing a guest post, so you'll get a break from it.
[identity profile] lilliburlero.livejournal.com
Here's a schedule for The Ready Made Family. If anyone would like to do a guest post on this novel, do let me know via pm.

November 21st

Chapter 1: Morning in the Conservatory
Chapter 2: Surprise in the Afternoon
Chapter 3: And So to Bath
Chapter 4: Time Runs Out

November 28th [livejournal.com profile] jackmerlin will be doing a guest post this week.

Chapter 5: To Meet the Dodds
Chapter 6: Tea and Stables
Chapter 7: Wedding and Breakfast

December 5th

Chapter 8: A Morning on the Beach
Chapter 9: A Little Horse Play
Chapter 10: The Birthday Party

December 12th

Chapter 11: Gone Away
Chapter 12: The Long Trail
Chapter 13: A Home to Go To

I propose we take a break after this and resume reading in mid-January.
[identity profile] ankaret.livejournal.com
(or, have your mods gone entirely round the bend? The answer, very probably)

As [livejournal.com profile] scarletlobster recently reminded me, seven years ago [livejournal.com profile] thewhiteowl and I were amusing ourselves by writing versions of the Marlows books in LOLCAT dialogue. (We never actually sourced any pictures of cats because it would have been too much work, and anyway, can you imagine the wars about whether Miss Ferguson should be a Scottish Fold or a foxy-looking ginger?)

As the fandom has been going through a renaissance due to [livejournal.com profile] lilliburlero and associates' great work on the readthroughs, I thought I'd link to the posts again so that people who missed them the first time round can share in the silliness.

Autumn Term, The Marlows And The Traitor, The Ready-Made Family, The Attic Term

Run Away Home

The Thuggery Affair

Falconer's Lure, End Of Term, The Cricket Term, Peter's Room
[identity profile] ratfan.livejournal.com
I promised to write a review of The Ready Made Family, which I read for the first time a few weeks ago. Delays have been caused by the death of one of my pet rats, Cecil, who developed an internal cancer (? hard to be sure) and I had him put down, which put me into mourning.
Woops, put review behind cut so as not to spoiler people! )
[identity profile] antfan.livejournal.com
I was watching The Railway Children and the scene where they prevent a train accident by waving their scarlet underwear to stop the train. I immediately thought "Ready Made Family!" I mean the scene where the Marlows and Dodds wave Nicola's yellow jumper to stop the train, after vandals have been mucking with the line.

AF said somewhere she loved the Railway Children - she read the E Nesbitts before writing Thursday Kidnapping - and I wondered if it was a conscious or unconscious echoing on her part?

It then struck me that the whole of "Ready Made Family" is a sort of late twentieth century Railway Children. The railway is integral all the way through, from when Mrs Marlow, Ginty and Lawrie are late because they are in "almost a nasty accident" to the arrival of the Dodds by train (Nicola and Chas go up into the engine) to Chas's obsession with trains, to travelling by train to Yetland Cove, to walking along the line (leads to ructions with Edgar) and Nicola's trip to and from Oxford. (It's on the train where Edwin says he still misses Rosemary - very evocative scene, leading Nicola to start reflecting on Latin quotes). And of course the basic situation - three children, two girls and a boy, go to stay in the country after a domestic disaster - is the same.

There's also Mr Lanyon who lends Nicola the money for her ticket and says that if the branch-line is closed - as is threatened - then what will it matter [about the money?] Which makes me wonder if AF has some sort of elegy for doomed rural train lines thing going on with this book?

Of course there are train scenes in the other books - the starts of Autumn Term, End of Term and Runaway Home, a scene in The Thuggery Affair. But in no other book is it so pervasive. (And I wonder if she didn't do a train scene in Cricket Term because she was all trained out?)

What do you reckon? Good theory...or siding to nowhere?
[identity profile] nickwhit.livejournal.com
Picking up on a comment in an earlier post that Nicola only regarded Patrick as a friend, I rather thought it evolved into more than that - certainly by RAH when Nicola wants to look special at the Merricks' New Year party; and is delighted when Patrick asks her to dance with him 'practically continuously'. And even at the end of RMF, I took the last page about Nicola understanding Persuasion far more than Ginty knew to refer to her feelings for Patrick. (But it's a long time since I read Persuasion.) Whaddya think?

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?
[identity profile] tosomja.livejournal.com
I read all the four school Marlow books as a child and absolutely loved them, read them 100s of times etc.  Now I have rediscovered them and realised only for the first time that there were others - I just thought that all the references to the holidays and falcons etc were things which happened 'off-stage', as it were.  So I acquired a version of the GGB Thuggery Affair, but found it really hard going and nothing like as good as the school books.  In fact I gave up once altogether, and then came back to it and managed to finish but wasn't hugely impressed..  I have also acquired The Ready Made Family which I enjoyed much more, but still, not as much as the school books. 
Given that it requires a fair amount of time and money to acquire the rarer Marlow books, it is really worth the struggle? Or are the school books the most popular for a reason?  What do you think - does anyone actually prefer the non-school books?   I don't want to spend a lot of effort on them only to wish that I'd kept to the school books and kept my memories of AF as good as they were!

And also what do you think of the historical ones? Are they as good, and do they connect to the later Marlows in any way apart from the characters being called Marlowe?
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] chazzbanner.livejournal.com
Here's another 'I wish we'd find out' question

In Ready-Made Family it is said that it took many years for Nicola to repair her relationship with Fob, after the afternoon on the beach with the shipwreck.

I find myself wondering whether it was an event or events that helped this happen, or whether it was simply the passage of time.

(I find the Peter-centeredness of Fob's universe to be annoying, though I know some find the Nicola-centeredness of the books in general to be equally annoying!)
[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] geebengrrl.livejournal.com
I was wondering what people thought of the cover art on the books (and the illustrations in some of them)? I always think of Nicola and Lawrie as looking like the Marjory Gill illustrations - all big eyes and long thin legs - I think because the first of the books I read was the Puffin edition of End Of Term. I also liked the Toulouse-Lautrec-ish illustrations on some of the later dustjackets (like these ones for The Thuggery Affair and Ready Made Family) - though I could never conceive of Nicola having the mullet hairstyle the illustrator has given her on the RMF jacket.

The ones I definitely don't like are the Faber ones from the 70's, with the floating heads and strange objects in the background - they look like an ill-conceived attempt to tap into the fantasy-fic market. The re-issued Faber version of Autumn Term is pretty, but doesn't look very Marlow to me. The American edition has the same cover that I remember ont he hardback in my school library.

Also, my copy of The Marlows and the Traitor has illustrations inside which make the four younger Marlows look very very much younger than I prefer to imagine them. Does anyone know if any of the other books were illustrated?

Anyway, over to you - do the Marlows in your head look like the Marlows on the dustjackets? Do you prefer one illustrator over another? Do you think cover-art is important? Has anyone managed to collect a full set with matching jackets?
owl: Nicola Marlow (nicola)
[personal profile] owl
The thing that I'm least convinced about of anything in the books is Karen's marriage. As of Peter's Room, the future she seems destined for is to stick around Oxford gathering up qualifications, and eventually settle down, producing sound if obscure research in a hair-pin-losing way, never being able to organise people, giving erratic tutorials and failing to notice her students' personal problems even when they're waving them under her nose. The one constant about her is that she's not really a people person.

If there was even an indication that she couldn't cope with Oxford, or that Classics had turned out to be as dry as dust...but in one book she's being scornful of Gondal and working away happily in the cold, and in the next she's landed with Edwin and the tiny, tiny tots. And I can't quite buy 'love conquering all desire for an intellectual life', seeing that Edwin's still mourning wife #1 in RMF, and Karen doesn't even seem to have the same sort of sense of humour—she goes practically Ann-like when he's laughing at the children's pantomime in RAH. People do do stupid things at nineteen, but I can't see her divorcing Edwin and going off to be an archaeologist. The thought of her in that farmhouse, making baked apples and sewing pantomime costumes until the steps leave home, is just too depressing for words. Anyone else feel the same?

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