[identity profile] lilliburlero.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] trennels
Welcome back! Hope you enjoyed the break and are ready for more discussion.

End of Term returns to Kingscote, a year after the beginning of Autumn Term. Anyone else wonder about what happens in those missing terms? Perhaps something to explain Rowan’s decision to leave? This has been your regularly scheduled fic prompt.

If anyone is tempted to think that Forest has rather overdone Ann’s fussiness, I’ll be pleased to disabuse them, having spent more time than I would really like around people whose attitude to catching buses, trains and planes is two hours early good, four hours early better. Ann notably isn’t a fusspot when she’s managing people who aren’t her family--the Guides in Autumn Term think of her as a good delegator--her excessive concerns for them here, I think, are juxtaposed interestingly to Nicola’s reflection on ‘feeling like a pin between two magnets labelled “Home” and “School” ’.

Tim has undergone something of a change of image, but remains able to needle Nicola as well as ever. ‘Handsome, high-spirited Marlows’ is very good, I think.

What do people make of our first glimpse of Esther, and Nicola’s judgement of her looks as beautiful? And judgements of looks in the series as a whole?

And Nicola Marlow goes AWOL from another school-bound train... I’m always very proud of the Sprog and his sparrow.

Nicola’s tact is at full tilt in dealing with Esther’s distress, and I think this handles very eloquently the pain and embarrassment of tears that you feel you should have grown out of, but which insist on springing out. But there are still some slightly dubious moral judgements here in the assumption that tears have a value, in a sense, which can be degraded by releasing them too easily, as Lawrie is implied to do--whereas Esther puts a proper value on crying because her tears are difficult and violent. While I’m endeared by the resolution of the situation in Nicola’s finding out that Esther is crying for an animal rather than a human being, it also points to quite a curious value-system. It’s one stereotypically associated with a certain sort of socially privileged Englishness; perhaps there’s also a notion embedded there that to cry for one’s parents is childish, but to cry for a dog is more respectable somehow. In any case, it’s rather telling of Esther’s relationship with her parents. The frequency of parental divorce as an experience at Kingscote is interesting, I think. The temporal flexibility that’s a feature of later books in the series doesn’t apply yet, if we take Miranda’s account of wartime evacuation as a guide, and a relatively high divorce rate might also be an indicator of a late 40s setting rather than a 50s one?

Nicola’s exchange with Ann at the end of this chapter is painfully well-observed, I think: both of them, in their different ways, missing Rowan, Ann’s illogical ‘You wouldn’t have done this to Rowan’, Nicola’s inadvertently wounding ‘I wish Rowan was here’, Ann’s mixture of relief and anger at Nicola being safe, Nicola still being rather young to recognise that relief/fury complex, the little nod back to Falconer’s Lure with ‘Ann has feelings, same like the rest of us’.





Following directly on her exchange with Ann, Nicola has another uncomfortable conversation, with Miss Redmond. Wonderfully squirmy stuff: Redmond's fulsome magnanimity, Lawrie's speechless embarrassment, and Nicola's disgust at Redmond's language of personal development: 'All this talk about letting down and not feeling ready--how could people talk like that?', Redmond's anger at the knockback. Sublime. (I also love Nicola 'being Stalky'.)

I also like the introduction of Miranda as a real character rather than an off-stage caustic presence, without quite breaking with the intimations we get of her in Autumn Term. I've long thought Miranda might be something of a self-portrait, representing the Jewish part of Forest's background as Patrick does her Catholicism.

'Someone who saw the joke at the same time as you did...' I think speaks to a lot of bright, well-read and informed children, which I think Forest must have been. And I enjoy the way that Miranda and Nicola share an intelligence that encourages candour in one another: about holidays being dreary, Karen's ineptitude as Head Girl, a shared dislike of Lois.

Poor Nicola: her first evening at school, and her fourth uncomfortable encounter, this time with Lois herself...Lois's smugness is sharply observed here, I think.

I'd love to hear what you think of Miranda's disclosure of her feelings for Janice and her hostility to 'pashes'. I tend to read this as a sort of (very quiet) coming-out. For the novel's presumed target market it's a pretty subtle distinction between the sentimentality of the worshippers at the shrine of Eileen Benson and Joyce Craig and a more firmly established romantic/sexual orientation. If I'm counting back right, the Lower V when Miranda was in IIA would have been Rowan's form. What on earth did she have to say about kirbigrips under pillows and roses in silver paper? This has been your regularly scheduled &c. I also love Miranda's irrepressible enjoyment of a row; making her a kind of anti-Ginty, I think.

The magnificent dottiness of a play cast according to character rather than talent still makes me gape and giggle. And 'Sheep: noises off' has barely staled over the quarter century I've known the novel.





(i)

Miranda's fickleness in the choice of Best Friends is funny but also unsettling; and I appreciate the indication that for all their emotional sophistication, these are characters still young enough to care deeply about who sits next to whom in class.

If Nicola prefers Cromwell just for Maths, I think I prefer her just in fiction, where I enjoy her sardonic repartee enormously: in real life she is the sort of teacher who would have spotted my weakness and gone for it mercilessly as she does for Lawrie's. But what do others think of her?

The little intimation of the swap-plot(s) to come is nice, I think. Forest handles the venerable notion of twins swapping with dash and confidence, I think, and of this we will have much more to say. But here it serves to highlight the change in friendship dynamic: Tim-Nick-and-Lawrie was already fracturing in Autumn Term, now it seems definitely to have become Tim-and-Lawrie and Nick-and-Miranda(-and-possibly-Esther).

(ii)

The rearrangements of the casting for the play are great fun, but was there ever a barmier way to go about putting on a show? Feel free to share ghastly school drama stories!

As someone who routinely roleplays Prince Charles Edward, I rather like Ginty's sense of herself as exiled reprobate, and quite understand her dismay at being promoted to Crowd. Lawrie's conceit, meanwhile, is as bumptious as ever, and her sisters as sternly engaged in repressing it.

It's a telling little insight that it was Miss Keith who expanded the Christmas Play from an entertainment to a Community Effort, the sort of bye-writing at which Forest excels. And Dr Herrick's polite attempts to amplify it into a production suitable for a cathedral are nicely done, I think: although he's the representative of the ecclesiastical world, he's much more of a impresario than the Kingscote staff, with Ussher here committed to a worshipful vision. Is there any fic about Dr Herrick? He's one of my favourite minor characters. (This has been &c.)

Again, a little foretaste of the swap-plot as Dr Herrick mistakes Lawrie for Nicola; and the audition scene gruesomely sheep-and-goats. Dr Herrick's embarrassing idea that Lawrie and Nicola should walk together again indicates his showmanlike tendencies; gentle and courteous though he may be, he's rather ruthless of people's feelings when it comes to mounting a production. And this incident marks a further wedge between Nicola and Tim-and-Lawrie. That Nicola's feelings are sufficiently bruised by the quarrel with her sister that it is only when she's seeing to Sprog that it occurs to her how exposed she'll be, singing solo in the Minster, I think, is a really neat touch of characterisation.

Although I have to try very hard to care much about the netball bits of the books under normal circumstances, I really like the little episode in which Lois refashions the younger girls' joshing of Nicola as an anecdote about Nicola's big-headedness. Val's uncritical acceptance of Lois's manipulation neatly indicates her acceptance of authority and hierarchy, while Janice's scepticism displays independence.

I enjoy Nicola's surprise at Shakespeare knowing anything as 'useful' as falconry; and perhaps the germ of an interest in Shakespeare in 'wondering how they fitted into their various plays'.

What do people think of Lois's behaviour towards Nicola at the practice? Ideas about what motivates her? Just the feud with Rowan?

(iii)

As someone who's a cheerful-noise-in-the-bath sort, I quite appreciate the horrors of Dr Herrick's reign of terror. Tim's dismay at remaining in the Crowd now the criteria for inclusion have changed, and its consequences in stinging-nettle satire, I think is handled with great plausibility. Marie's hearty attempts at joining in always make me squirm, as does her falling neatly into Miranda's baited trap. I'm fascinated by and would love to hear what people have to say about Miranda's Jewish identity, by the way (also: fic prompt--I wish I had the knowledge and competency to try my hand.)

Lawrie's religious ignorance will be picked up later in her conversation with Madame Orly. Is it plausible? End of Term is the novel in which Forest's religious commentary begins in earnest. It's one of the strands in the series that I enjoy most, and I'd just like to open up to discussion this novel's (and the series') religious themes. (I don't think it's a particularly spoilery area, with a couple of exceptions: use your discretion.)

Here's [livejournal.com profile] ankaret's fic 'The Next Christmas', by the way, in which Patrick and Ann discuss religion. I read this and wandered around claiming it was canon for about three years before running across it again and realising it wasn't. Legionseagle's 'To Strive To Seek' also contains some great sectarian détente and misunderstanding.

Finally, I have never, ever, been able to hear 'See Amid the Winter Snow' without thinking of school dinner.



Enough from me--have at it, and I look forward to your comments!

(Posting slightly early this week as I'll be occupied and largely offline tomorrow.)
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