August 29, 2016

Confusion by Cupid by Janet Lambert (1950)

Gwenn Jordon missed no opportunity to remind her step-brother, Peter, that his favorite girl, Tippy Parrish, had found a great admirer in young Lieutenant Prescott in Germany, and as the present story opens Peter is thoroughly mad. Especially at women. If it had not been for Alice, his other step-sister, he didn't know just what he would do. Of course, there was a pretty little lass from out of town, but just how much did she count?

Meanwhile Gwenn and Alice went to a house party at Bill Hanley's where Alice was to have been the guest of honor. Gwenn, however, having just fallen out with her own fiancé, decided to get even with him by making herself the belle of the house party.

After that what happened? Was Alice, sweet, reliable Alice, able to extricate her thoughtless sister from a wretched situation that jeopardized the happiness of two families? And presently just how did Bobby Parrish feel when he found Alice admitting that Jon Drayton (remember Christy Drayton's brother?) was an awfully nice chap? And what finally became of the lad to whom Gwenn had been engaged? Truly--all was confusion--with Cupid hanging his head in discouragement.

All ends well though, as it always does in Janet Lambert's inimitable stories for girls, with all the characters settling finally into their perfect if unpredictable positions in the intricate pattern woven for them. (from the inside flap)

Confusion by Cupid opens with Peter Jordon in a drugstore, stewing about an argument he had with his sister Gwenn, where she tries to get him to go out with her friend, despite his continuing devotion to Tippy Parrish. He meets Maxsie in the drugstore and:
"Peter Jordon, who was never going to look at a girl again, at least not until a very special one came home from Europe, or until he became a second lieutenant in 1951, presently found himself with a very pretty one, sitting on the upper deck of a Fifth Avenue bus and forgetting his own mild trouble in the greater tragedy of hers."
She got fired from her job at a dress shop for stealing, though she didn't do it. Peter provides a sympathetic ear, and wants to help the very pretty Maxsie out. After all, his nickname at West Point is "Wrecker," because he's always hauling people out of trouble.

Peter heads out to Penny Parrish's place in the country, where Alice is spending a few days to get her help with the Maxsie dilemma. He finds her having to entertain bratty actor Bill Hanley. I adore this description of this fabulous fifties outdoor room:
"The MacDonald's back lawn was a combination flower garden and kitchen. A small pavilion had been built against the high background of a hedge. It had a striped canvas roof, a brick floor and back-wall; and against the wall was a brick stove and flames dancing up through its grill, a built-in sink, and a small refrigerator. Copper pans, long-handled forks and basting spoons hung in a row above the sink beside a small cabinet gleaming with enameled plates."
Peter and Alice go and visit Maxsie's ex-employer and persuade her to take Maxsie back. They stop by her apartment to give her the good news, and Peter ditches Alice and takes Maxsie out to lunch. He invites her up to West Point for a hop, and heads back to the Point.

Alice and Gwenn and the younger children are left at home. Gwenn is engaged to a cadet, Budge, but bored with him, so when Bill Hanley calls up for Alice, Gwenn butts in and invites him over, but proceeds to have one of her customary tantrums. Loyal housekeeper Ellin talks Alice down from her tremendous guilt she has whenever Gwenn misbehaves. Despite her earlier tantrum, Gwenn makes an entrance during Bill's visit.
"From then on the afternoon sped like a runaway street car that has jumped its track and is having a gay, mad time on the loose. Gwenn twinkled and laughed. She flitted about like a fairy, refilling Bill's glass and rapturously echoing his praise of himself in a soft Southern accent that had been laid away for four years."
When Gwenn finds out that Bill has invited Alice to a house party, she demands that Alice go and that she be invited as well. She has an alleged breakup latter from Budge (which Alice doesn't read) and sobs and sobs, until Alice relents. They head out of town to the party at Bill Hanley's where they meet Christy and Jonathan Drayton and Roger Lynn, who seem surprisingly nice, unlike the blowsy, Hollywood Hanleys. Jonathan mistakenly thinks that Alice is the extra girl, not the one that Bill asked down, especially since Gwenn is very attentive to Bill.

Bill and Gwenn go off on a drive and don't come back all night, to the house party members' consternation, particularly Alice's. Bill phones the next morning, saying the car broke down, but with little other information. A few stressful days pass, and finally a phone call comes with the news that Gwenn and Bill are married. The Hanley publicity machine goes into action, and Alice returns home, driven by Jonathan, "big and dependable," who provides a sensible shoulder to lean on.
'"This is Gwenn's mess,' he went on sensibly, when they were on their side of the white line again. 'I know it has to affect you some, it's bound to, but stop blaming yourself because you introduced her to Bill and took her to that fool house party. A gal like Gwenn needs a keeper, but you can't be it. Let Bill have the job.'"
This cheers Alice immeasurably, though she returns home and has to break the news to General Jordon and the rest of the family. She goes to the Waldorf and gets the full story from Gwenn. It took three days to get a marriage license, so they mostly drove around and fought, sleeping where they could (but not together. Even bad Gwenn is not THAT bad.)

Jonathan drives Alice up to West Point to break the news about Gwenn to Peter in person, where they promptly run into Bobby Parrish, ever devoted to Alice. Alice sees Jonathan and Bobby side by side and flighty, silly Bobby does not come off that well. Jonathan drives Alice home and asks when he'll see her again and they make plans for a dance. Alice comes upstairs only to find Gwenn, waiting for her in their room, having left Bill. Sheesh. Gwenn calls up Budge, her ex-financee, who comes to visit and tells her all about herself. Gwenn returns to Bill, much to Alice's relief.

Up at West Point, Peter 'recognizes' Bobby and they have a heart-to-heart about Tippy and Alice. We return to the adventures of Maxsie, and her plain roommate Anne. Maxsie and Peter have been dating for a bit, but he's pretty sure she's taking him for granted. There's a big game (Peter is a football hero) and Maxsie asks for an extra ticket. She doesn't tell anyone that the ticket is for the boy from back home, who Maxsie is hoping to impress. When Maxsie doesn't show up for the game, Peter goes to her apartment to find her and finds her with Page Jameson. She expects that Peter will be mad, but he surprises her.
"'I don't know how I might feel about having another guy bust up my large evening in New York if I didn't have something of my own to worry about. You see, you and I were pretty well dated up for tomorrow and I just had word that Tippy Parrish is coming home. I was wanting to ask you to let me off to meet her plane.'"
Maxsie is ashamed, but Peter keeps it light and invites both Page and roommate Anne to the party at the Waldorf. Yay! Everything turns out just fine, including plain Anne meeting a nice cadet. We end the book with Alice and Peter driving like heck to get to the airport to meet Tippy.

"'Gosh,' he groaned, forgetting Alice had ears, 'what if she isn't Tippy?'"

But don't worry. He sees her getting off the plane:
"Her tan curls were brushed up around the same small cap with its perky feather; her face, eager and laughing, was above the same brown suit. Her whole body was tense with joy and excitement. A year or an hour might have passed since he had seen her, and Peter caught a deep, ecstatic breath."
And end book. A sweet book with a lot about relationships. The complicated, sister relationship between Alice and Gwenn, and how much of a relief it is for Alice when Gwenn marries. At least she's off Alice's shoulders now, even if she went about it with her customary nuttiness. We get to know Peter a bit more, as he dates Maxsie and struggles with his devotion to Tippy, even when she is far away. Bobby has always been devoted (in his own goofy way) to Alice, but when she meets Jonathan, she finds something in his calm strength that she really likes.

August 26, 2016

Little Miss Atlas by Janet Lambert (1949)

By all the rules Tippy Parrish should have been having a perfectly marvelous time. Here she was, in a beautiful little village in the Bavarian Alps where her father, Colonel Parrish was stationed; she had a handsome young American lieutenant paying her flattering attention; she danced and skied and skated the days away. But Tippy was not happy. And why?

Mrs. Lambert has chosen a slightly graver thesm for her story this time and a truly fine story it is . . . one which girls, after they have read it, will often recall with awakened interest in their fellow beings everywhere. Not only is the delightful unity of the Parrish family stressed as it always is, but now there has been added a warm and beautiful interest in and sympathy for others outside that charmed circle of security and happiness. Tippy Parrish has become someone to admire tremendously as well as to love as a favorite heroine. (from the inside flap)

How gorgeous are these covers? Look at Tippy's perfectly tamed cap of tan curls, and the very, very handsome young American lieutenant Ken Prescott. Dreamy! Sadly, there's no artist listed on the dust jacket. How things have changed! Now, publishers credit everything, from design and illustrations to the person who picks out the font.

Back to Tippy. Little Miss Atlas picks up almost immediately after Miss Tippy, as Tippy and her mother are setting sail in an army transport ship from New York harbor. Their accommodations are less than ideal, and sound incredibly claustrophobic. Tippy starts with a pretty unhappy attitude:
"'The army defeats me. I don't want to live in Germany, and I wish Dad had retired when he got wounded.'" Her mother responds with a reproving "Don't be silly. We all love the army."
A quick catch-up with the family takes place. Carrol and David are taking poor Davy (stricken with polio) to Warm Springs, and baby Lang as well. Penny is turning down acting gigs right and left, worried about her own child Parri, and wishing for another baby. Bobby is at home, preparing for West Point, and Colonel Parrish is already in Germany, preparing for his family's arrival.

Things begin to look up for Tippy when she and her mother get  moved to one of the ranking officers' staterooms, and she hears that handsome lieutenant Ken Prescott might be on board. She gets in with a group of young people, and runs into Prescott, who treats her with a combination of casual bemusement and growing interest. She confides in him about the dragon that she thinks has gobbled up Germany and Europe and that she's determined to fight that dragon.

An interesting observation from Ken as the passengers ready to disembark. We've learned there are thirteen hundred troops aboard, heading to Germany with their families as part of the Marshall Plan, and Ken watches the trucks and boxes and cars roll out.
"Ken was proud of the scene. He was proud of his compatriots who brought their electric gadgets with them, their refrigerators, sanitary wire screening, and washing machines; who bought and planned for comfort. They live--right!' he silently told the crates. 'They're what makes America good. And even if it costs a lot to get the stuff over here, Uncle Sam wants them to have it. He wants them to stay used to good living.
Unlike Tippy, he was eager to be a part of the scene before him....above all, he was impatient to see the ruined city where he would help bring order out of chaos."
Although the first part of this triggers a bit of an 'ugly American' reaction in me (really? they brought refrigerators?), the last bit redeems Ken for me. We get a look at that chaos as Tippy and her mother drive to Bremerhaven.
"Tippy looked at block after block of ruined buildings. Nothing she had seen in the newsreels or magazines had prepared her for this. Whole apartment houses were roofless shells full of gaping holes which had been windows. Now and then a sagging floor showed through; and sometimes a section or even a room could still be used and had people living in it. There was nothing but rubble in what once had been the main business section of the town, nothing but bricks and plaster cleaned away so pedestrians could walk on the broken sidewalks."
They finally make it to Garmisch, where they are reunited with Colonel Parrish and settle into their new home, complete with an array of German servants. Colonel and Mrs. Parrish are worried about Tippy:
"'Sometimes she seems as happy as a child,' she answered, 'and is all bubbling enthusiasm; and then, the very next minute, she looks as if someone had struck her or stolen her favorite doll. Tippy is such a strange child,' she sighed. 'She's so much more complicated than the others.'"
Life in Garmisch is pretty grim, with little social interaction for Tippy. She's being tutored for her schooling and hasn't met many friends. Ken comes down to visit and introduces her to a lovely family who remind her of Penny's family, and who are kind to the Germans. However, things are so grim that Tippy even looks forward to Bobby's visit at Christmastime. The whole family goes to Switzerland for Christmas and Tippy gets a wonderful surprise visit from Alice Jordon. Tippy is delighted to have her dear friend visiting and confides in Alice that she is in love with Ken Prescott. Alice, loyal to her brother Peter as Tippy's potential swain, is dismayed, especially since Ken is too old for Tippy. They have a nice visit, but Tippy is still unhappy in Germany.

Ken Prescott, also in Switzerland for the holidays, has a heart-to-heart with Colonel Parrish, who asks Ken's advice about what to do with Tippy. Ken recommends that the Parrishes send her home.
"'You would? Why?'
'Well, sir, I guess, for two reasons. One of them, we've talked about. Tippy needs to have her faith restored, and America can do it. that's what she needs. She's lost and she has to find herself.'
'And the other reason?' Colonel Parrish's glance was keen and Ken raised his eyes to meet it.
'Me,' he said.
Kind of swoony, right? Ken is a very charming, but sincere character. He goes on:
"'I'm too fond of her, Colonel Parrish. But you needn't worry about it. I won't let her know it.'
'Thank you, boy. I appreciate that.'"
In a rather clumsy (to modern ears) discussion, Ken sells the virtues of America to Tippy, who (quite rightly) points out a number of horrible things the country has done, such as taking the land from the Indians and slavery, to name a few. But Ken defends America:
"'You see, Tip,' he told her, 'that's the important thing. We were just a young country then and we made mistakes. Just like kids make more mistakes than grown-ups. And we had the enthusiasm of kids, too. We wanted to grow up to be a swell country and we never got tired, or discouraged, trying. And as we grew, we saw our mistakes and tried to fix 'em.'"
I'm not one hundred percent with you on that one, Ken, and neither is Tippy. She feels conflicted about being sent home, and that she's being cheated.
"'All these years while I was being 'developed,' as you call it, I was only learning the stuff they taught me. Now they don't want me to use it. It's just as if they said, 'Don't be kind, don't do the best you can, don't help people. Go home and have fun. And that's not fair.'"
Ken buys her a dog (the adorable Switzy), and after a lot of thought, Tippy decides to stay in Germany. She chooses to go to school in Munich, and her parents are proud of her decision and her strength of character. She tells Ken about her decision and while he supports her (he calls her "about the biggest little guy I ever ran into and you try to carry the world"), the conversation turns a bit confusing, and leaves them both unsettled.
"'Would you like to have me around, cherub, darling? Would you?' The words flew out. They escaped his control, and they gave him such a fright that he missed her muffled answer.'
'Oh, Ken it's what I want most,' she whispered. Then she, too, gasped and clutched her package."
Both are regretful at letting their feelings show, thinking the other doesn't return the sentiment. They part as friends, and Tippy runs upstairs to finish her letter to Peter Jordon. And end book.

There's a lot happening in Little Miss Atlas. It's very interesting to see post-war Germany through the eyes of naive Tippy, and the efforts of America to help rebuild the country. It's a unique look at a massive Army operation, and the interactions between the Americans and Germans. There's a fairly clear-eyed look at America as a country, although still quite a lot of post-war patriotism. As usual, Tippy struggles, but continues to grow older and wiser.

Miss Tippy by Janet Lambert (1948)

The Parrishes again, and this time Tippy, "going on" sixteen just as Penny was in Star-Spangled Summer, the book which opened that series. As always in the Parrish clan, many things happen at once: Tippy sends out invitations for a birthday dance on Governors Island; Colonel Parrish is ordered to Germany; and suddenly tragedy stalks into the gay Parrish household.

For a long time Tippy has been smarting under the failure of Trudy, the beloved colored cook, to call her "Miss Tippy." Trudy is all-wise, all-knowing. When Tippy ceases to be a headstrong, teasing, little flitterfly, says Trudy, and takes on a bit of sorely lacking dignity, she will be called "Miss Tippy," but not until then.

Tippy's earnest efforts are both touching and humorous. Tragedy pulls her up short--and Miss Tippy emerges. Sunshine comes again as it always does to the Parrishes. "Miss Tippy" is the darling of them all. (from the inside flap)

As Miss Tippy opens, Tippy is agonizing over invitations to her sixteenth birthday dance on Governors Island, where she lives with her family.  Let's meet Tippy!
"Scowling was hard, too, because her face was not designed for it. All its features were upswept and perky, from the short inquiring nose and curved lips that ended in a playful dimple, to golden eyelashes with rising tips."
Before Tippy can finish the invitations, though, her mother gets a call and finds out that Major Parrish is being ordered to Germany. Tippy protests. What about Penny, and the new baby? David and Carrol and Davy and their new baby? And 19-year-old Bobby, the bane of Tippy's existence, needs to prepare for West Point.
"'You mean--we'll really leave here?' Tippy jumped from the desk as if a bomb had gone off under it, and her voice shook. But her mother only said quietly:
'Daddy comes first,
always. I had him before I had you children,' she reminded with a smile, and reached out to take Tippy's hand. 'He needs us. You and me, I mean.'"
I think this is a fascinating conversation. There isn't much children's and young adult fiction with such adult insight into relationships. I love that the children are not the center of the world. This is a thread that runs through this book, and gives some interesting insight into the older Parrishes' lives.

Bobby won't be going, but Tippy will. Her mother says: "'You're our youngest. You belong with us wherever we go, and we'll hang on to you like grim death." 

Tippy is distraught and heads over to the Jordons' house, where she shares the news with her dear friend Alice, and older brother military cadet Peter. The majority of the book is spent in preparing Tippy and the Parrishes for the big move. Tippy learns to drive, with surprisingly little teaching. (Maybe cars were easier to drive in the 1940s?) Bobby is, as usual, teasing Tippy by stealing the car keys and they get into a big brawl, right in front of a very young and good-looking officer, with whom Tippy finds herself nose to now.
"Tippy even noticed his nose, which was high-bridged but not too large, and his blue eyes that started out quite straight on either side of it then drooped lazily at the outer corners."
She sees him at the movies as well, and examines every bit of him:
"He had an interesting profile: A straight nose with a little flat tip on the end, a high cheekbone, a very nice mouth and upperlip, and the oddly slanted eyes. And above them, sandy hair had been parted and forced into neat obedience that erupted in a double cowlick."
Tippy and Bobby continue to fight as packing preparations ensue. Tippy ask Trudy for advice, and wonders when Trudy will call her "Miss Tippy," as she calls Penny "Miss Penny." After all, she's almost sixteen.
"'But it ain't a matter of age. It's a title you earns. Folks don's measure grown-ups by birthdays. It's what you do an' how you do it that counts. Lots of people older'n me ain't grown up, yet, and lots who's younger'n you, have.'"
At frequent times, Trudy seems like the most sensible member of the household. It feels like the Parrish children turn to Trudy for true, thoughtful advice and love. Although Mrs. Parrish loves and supports them, she's a bit on the flighty side.

Tippy spends some time soul-searching and after her mother gives her a notebook, she decides that she's going to become a writer. Not much comes of it, though. In other Jordon/Parrish family news, Jenifer's wedding to Cyril is in the works. Oh, and that handsome young officer? Kenneth Prescott is a cousin to the Prescotts (friends of Penny in her teen years), and stationed on Governors Island. But far too old for Tippy at the ancient age of twenty-three.

But Peter Jordon, according to Alice, is just right. Earlier in the book, Tippy sees Peter all dressed up and admits he "almost looks handsome." Peter is a good and steady man, but Tippy isn't feeling it, despite how fun it would be for Alice and Bobby and Peter and Tippy to get married. After all, then Alice and Tippy would be sisters!

The dance is nearly here, when disaster hits the family. Carrol and David's little boy Davy has polio. I needed a little reminder of what polio meant in 1948:
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (for example, contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness of the neck and pain in the limbs. 1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs114/en/)
While the family is at the hospital, Tippy and Bobby take care of little Parri (Penny and Josh's daughter). They visit the hospital and get the good news that Davy will live. He may not walk, but he will live. Tippy is helping the family move out of the house on Governors Island when Trudy surprises her with the title of "Miss Tippy." A sweet interchange follows, with Trudy sharing when she was first called Miss Gertrude by their pastor.

Tippy's birthday arrives, and Josh gives her a portable typewriter for her burgeoning (except not) writing career. And the dance is still on! Tippy gets a beautiful new dress, and a surprise party before the dance. Tippy dances for ages, but the infuriating Ken Prescott (who is also going to Germany) and Peter are her most frequent escorts. Peter tries to give her his pin, but she won't take it.
'"But do you think you could love me, someday?'"'I don't know that, either. I like you such a lot but, ' she shook her head and laid her hand with its bracelet over his, 'we aren't grown up yet, Peter. We each have so many things to do before we can think of marriage.'"
And before she knows it, Tippy and her mother are on the transport ship to Germany, saying good-bye to the family and to the Jordons and ready to start their new adventure. And the book ends.

Miss Tippy is quite a bit about how Tippy (sometimes unsuccessfully) is trying to grow up before her time. Trying to resist the pull of fighting with the troublesome Bobby, to figure out how to be a lady, trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up, how to help out her family in troubling times, and how to earn the title of Miss Tippy.

I'd like to like Tippy more. Ken makes a comment about hoping that she was more like Penny, and I agree. It can be hard to get completely behind a troubled soul--especially when reading these books for pure comfort. Things pick up a bit more in Little Miss Atlas, as we travel with Tippy to Germany, and she gets a sense of herself and the bigger world. Of course, the series gets increasingly bittersweet, as there is a hard road for Tippy ahead, love-wise. Which I'm trying not to think about.

August 21, 2016

Re-reading Janet Lambert (Part One)

The first ten Janet Lamberts, or so.
(from the author's collection, hee)
The world is slightly too much with me, so I am spending my August re-reading and writing about the books of Janet Lambert. In addition to the detailed posts on each novel, I'm updating this post as I make my way through the series.

Although Janet Lambert has written a ton of books (Stories about teenagers...written specially for teenagers), her books about the Parrish, Jordon and the Kane families are the books I've loved since I was a child. Set (and written) during World War II and after, they encompass the world of the U.S. Army as well as the world of American Theater. What could be better?

I recently filled in my collection, thanks to the lovely folks at Image Cascade, who reprint books from the 1930s through the 1960s, and I'm excited to finally read the entire series in order, or some semblance of order.

The complication is that these sprawling novels focus on different families but feature characters from all of these families interacting. The Grosset and Dunlap editions have a locket on the spine with a number, but the numbering doesn't always make sense. So I'm going to do my best to keep it all organized--once and for all, with the help of this post.

Author image from
One for the Money
(Dutton, 1946)
The series kicks off with Star-Spangled Summer (1941 - #1), which introduces us to the Parrish family: Major David Parrish, his wife Marjorie, son David, daughter Penny, youngest son Bobby and little daughter Tippy, bringing up the rear. The action starts when Penny brings Carrol Houghton out to Fort Arden, the army base where she lives with her family. We see army life through the eyes of poor little rich girl Carrol, who has lots of money, but very little love in her family. After seeing the example of the Parrishes, and with a bit of maneuvering by Penny, Carrol and her father are brought together at the end, and a romance is burgeoning between Carrol and David.

This is one of my very favorites, as it was the first Janet Lambert book I ever read. Although it was a Scholastic paperback reprinted in 1972, it was still substantially before my time. I was raised by two voracious readers, and we spent many happy Saturdays driving around to used bookstores. I can easily count the number of new books I bought as a child on one hand. It was all about the pre-owned, pre-loved books. New books just didn't seem right.

Next, we have Dreams of Glory (1942 - #2), which picks up two months after the events of Star-Spangled Summer. Penny works on growing up, David goes off to West Point, not much else happens. It's not a favorite.

Back cover of  Candy Kane
(1943, G & D)
But things pick up with Glory Be! (1943 - #3) which jumps forward in time about three years. Penny is turning 18, and ready to start her career on the stage, even if romance (in the form of handsome Lieutenant Hayes and loyal Michael Drayton) threatens to complicate things. David is near to graduating from West Point, and making plans with Carrol when they hear that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. Suddenly, everyone must prepare for war. Colonel Parrish goes to England for the war effort, and the family stays at Carrol's father palatial country estate, where her father is increasingly ill, and passes away fairly suddenly. David graduates, and Carrol and David marry as the book ends, on a lovely, tearful note.

Now, although the order on my shelf says I should read another Penny Parrish, I am heading off to the books about Candy Kane (1943 - #4). Candy Kane is a whole new series about fourteen-year-old Candy Kane, who is new to Army life, and settles in beautifully on the base, despite her mother Marcia and sister Leigh, both of whom are pieces of work. She meets Barton Reed, the boy next door, and his whole family, and sings at an army show. It's adorable, and Candy Kane is a very endearing, sweet, awkward character. With the family adjusting to Army life, and the girl singer aspect, it's so quintessential World War II. Endearing and sweet and sincere.

Back cover of One for
the Money (Dutton, 1946)
Next up, is Whoa, Matilda (1944 - #5), another novel about Candy Kane. This one picks up two years later, as Major Kane goes off to war, Barton enlists, Leigh is married to a soldier, and Candy goes off to sing on a war-bond drive. The family (which now includes friends Jane and Dirk) are faced with the realities of war, and must deal with wartime life with all its highs and lows.

Another left turn. The next book in the locket series is Just Jenifer (1945 - #6), which introduces us to Janet Lambert's other massive army family--the Jordons. Sixteen-year-old Jenifer is left to mother her large family while her father General Jordon is fighting in Italy. Meanwhile, she meets British Cyril, sent over from England to live with his aunt after a family tragedy.

Practically Perfect (1947 - #7)  returns us to the Parrish family, where Penny is choosing between the theater, a home of her own, and love. Spoiler! She gets them all. A lovely post-war novel where we start to see the characters we met as teen-agers grow up, affected by war and life and love and family. Truly, Practically Perfect. Although, it does seem like we skipped a few years somewhere, as we find Penny already on stage and a great success. More on that later!

But with the next novel, we return to the adventures of the Jordon family with Friday's Child (1947 - #8).  Now living on Governors Island, the Jordon family (mostly Alice and Gwenn) meet the Parrish family (mostly in the form of Tippy and Bobby). Gwenn behaves like a brat, Alice struggles with her loyalty to Gwenn and her newfound independence, and as ever, Jenifer holds the whole family on her young shoulders. We meet up with Penny Parrish as well, who is starring on Broadway in a play and has a three-month old baby daughter.

Now, we are eight novels in and I have lost the thread. I inadvertently read One for the Money (1946 - #10), the third of the Candy Kane novels, instead of Up Goes the Curtain (#9). Oops! One for the Money is about a race horse, which is kind of boring, but Barton Reed comes back to romance Candy and all ends romantically, with Barton giving up the army and Candy giving up a career (that she really didn't want anyway.)

In keeping with following the locket order, I just read Up Goes the Curtain (1946 - #9). What the heck is up with these numbers? Up Goes the Curtain clearly goes before Practically Perfect, for she just gets on stage in Up and marries Josh in Practically. It's delightful, of course, but I've changed my mind about this locket order business. I picked up Where the Heart Is, a Christy Drayton book, but decided that life is too short for non-Parrish and Jordon stories. So I'm moving on to whatever is next for those crazy families. Stay tuned!

Up Goes the Curtain by Janet Lambert (1946)

No young girl who ever has longed to know the mystery of the world behind the footlights will be able to put down this new story about Penny Parrish and her first exciting experiences on Broadway.

After working hard all summer in a stock company, Penny finds herself in the cast of the show, The Robin's Nest, due to open on Broadway. There she meets Josh Macdonald, the blunt, weary-looking stage manager, who takes a keen interest in her success as an actress--although he is surprisingly indifferent to her as an attractive young girl!

Making a flying trip home between rehearsals, Penny meets an earlier admirer, Lieutenant Terry Hayes. Terry introduces her to a very beautiful young woman, also on her way to Fort Knox. Penny immediately distrusts her, and a thrilling spy hunt develops.

As the story progresses, Penny learns the answers to all the things a stage-struck girl wants to know--what actors are like after working hours, how to thwart someone who is trying steal your best scenes, how feels to wait for the curtain to go up on opening night.

How it all ends, how Penny meets someone who at last is able to set her daydreaming, how once more she has a choice to make--all this will hold you to the last fascinating page. For in UP GOES THE CURTAIN, as in all Janet Lambert's books, laughter, romance and suspense abound in an absorbing story of gay, wide-awake young moderns. (from the inside flap)

Up Goes the Curtain begins with Penny Parrish alone in New York, preparing for her role in a Broadway play (The Robin's Nest) and missing her family at Fort Knox. She finds a confidante in soda fountain waitress Letty whose husband is overseas.
"There was nothing she enjoyed so much as talking with people; not to them, about them, but with them. She forgot she was homesick, forgot to drink her coke, but sat with her elbow on the porcelain counter, her soft round chin cupped in the palm of her hand, listening to the story of Joe and a girl he called Letty."
As Penny talks about her own family, Lambert gracefully catches us up on the doings of the Parrish clan. Letty inspires her to go visit her family until the show start rehearsals. In a coincidence, Terry Hayes, one of Penny's most ardent suitors, is also heading to Fort Knox, but seems surprisingly cold on the phone. She sees him on the train as well, and he is with a beautiful young woman named Marcia. She puts him out of her mind, and gets absorbed in her script and her new role in the play.
"'Oh me,' she sighed at last, flipping off the light and snuggling down under the heavy Pullman blanket, 'I do lead the most divine life. I guess I'll lie here and think about it awhile.'"
Despite Terry's confusing behavior, Penny soon has a very joyful reunion with her family, including Carrol and David, who have a chat about Penny and Terry. Because Carrol is a "mum little oyster", David tells her that Terry is working in intelligence and suspicious of Marcia. They can't tell Penny, though, she can't keep a secret. And is Penny ever suspicious! Finally, Carrol has to give her some news to throw her off the track:  "'I didn't mention it before, but David and I have put in our order for a very special baby.'"

This doesn't dissuade Penny for long, who is deeply suspicious of both David and Terry's attentions to Marcia. Soon, she's spying and even intercepting a note left in a glove handed to Marcia by a soldier. She reads it, thinking it's merely a love note, and terribly regretful, she goes in to her parents' room to confess, but Major Parrish has news for her: she was right. The note contained very sensitive information about maneuvers, and Penny "thought excitedly, 'I'm helping. I'm helping my country. And perhaps I've saved David's ship from a submarine so he can come back to see his baby.'"

Marcia and the soldiers and officers are arrested, and soon Terry Hayes comes calling, and Trudy lets Penny know he's arrived.
"'What's the matter with him, with Terry, I mean? Is he mad at me for being the one to catch Marcia?'
'Do he look mad, holdin' a box that's gotta be candy in one hand an' one that's gotta be flowers in the other?' Trudy enjoyed the pleased embarrassment that spread over Penny's face, and added slyly, 'He's courtin', honey.'"
Yes, he is and Terry apologizes to Penny for putting her through all this with Marcia. But Penny says:
"'Terry, if I have to tell you, I guess I'll have to, I didn't really suffer much.'
'So that's the way it is.' Terry's jaw tightened and Penny saw a little ripple of muscles run along it. 'I suppose I should have known,' he said, his blue eyes steady on her upraised brown ones."
Penny is torn between a career and army life, and not ready to make a decision about either. They embrace:
"She wriggled to get free, then, still in the circle of his arms, reached up to take his cheeks between her hands. 'You know, don't you, that I want you to be the one I love someday?' she asked, so childishly sincere that he knew love hadn't yet come to Penny."
Major Parrish and David are shipped out, and Carrol returns to New York (and the swanky Park Avenue apartment) with Penny. They find Letty again and invite her to dinner, where she and Carrol become fast friends.

Before we know it, it's the day of the first rehearsal for The Robin's Nest. (Can you believe we're only halfway through this book? It really is jam-packed!) Penny puts on her tan suit and her plaid topcoat and heads out.
"She felt very important walking along Broadway and turning into Forty-Fourth Street with its double row of theaters. She even walked along a narrow alley with her head high, proud to be one who had a right to drop out of the throng of pedestrians and traverse its narrow runway."
Here, at the door, she meets a gruff young man "in baggy tweeds", who is "dark and disheveled, with a black lock of hair that hung from his hatless head over a bony forehead" and had "deep-set gray eyes." Quite a change from the very handsome Terry Hayes. She enters the theater, meets the cast and the director, and the disheveled young man, who turns out to be stage manager Josh MacDonald. Her first day of rehearsal is hard work, and she was:
"hobbling along the alley, when the dark, dejected stage manager passed her without notice. He walked with an irritated lunge and she wondered why he wasn't in uniform. Miltern Wilde had frankly explained a punctured ear drum, but Josh MacDonald, for all his pale leanness, looked healthy and cross enough to frighten a Jap or German out of his fox hole."
Rehearsals continue, and most everything is going well, except a fellow actor who is trying to upstage her. Oh, and Josh seems really unpatriotic and dismissive of Penny's love for her country. Soon, Penny is on the train for opening night in Boston, which the attentive Terry is attending as well. The cast has some jitters.
"Only Penny stood calmly in the wings awaiting her entrance, and just before she was to go on, Mrs. Kerston upset her equilibrium by telling her she was too young in the business to know how frightened she should be on opening night. After that she proved herself an actress by going to pieces with the others when she was off the stage and by working coolly and intelligently when she was on."
The show opens in New York and Penny's upstaging coworker takes things too far and she takes back her scene, to great acclaim by the audience, but not by the director. He fires Josh when he stands up for Penny, and they go off to dinner to commiserate. Here, Penny learns why Josh is so anti-army. He volunteered for the army and "worked like a mule" until someone got wind of his theatrical past and put him in charge of shows for the soldiers. He wanted to fight. Also, he says:
"'I was so mad to be doing for fifty bucks a month what I'd been paid a thousand for, my nerves blew up. They flew in all directions like a busted light bulb.'"
Penny asks if he wants to fight (he does) and she says:
"'Then, will you let me fix it? I know a dozen officers who would put you in combat.'
He was silent and walking again, and Penny ran a few steps to keep up with him. 'Josh,' she begged, 'let me make the army mean something to you. I've spent all my life in it and I love it. Give me the chance to prove to you how fair it can be. Don't let the whole be ruined by the bit you saw. Please, Josh.'"
And he does. The play is going beautifully, Letty has moved in with Carrol and Penny, and all is going well. One day, Penny calls home to find out that Carrol has gone "to the hospital, of course, to get the baby." Soon, Davy is born, and Penny brings Josh out to the family estate to visit. She learns more about Josh's sad and lonely past and they start to make plans when a phone call comes that announces that Michael Drayton (another of Penny's suitors)'s plane has gone down and he is missing. Penny starts to fall apart but Josh gives her a little tough love, reminding her that she has a show and cannot go to pieces.

They drive back to New York together:
"Lights were glowing along the Hendrik Hudson drive when they entered New York, with windows of tall buildings twinkling like diamonds in the dusk, and he leaned over to look at them. 'New York,' he breathed. 'The greatest living city in the world. Take a look, Penny; it's all yours if you want it."
Penny wonders if she does and the book ends on a melancholy note as she prepares for her play.

This book has everything: tons of romantic intrigue as well as army intrigue, and spies; plus, a fascinating look at backstage at a Broadway show, through the eyes of Penny. We see Letty and Carrol being strong and building up courage in their husbands' absences, and Penny start to learn what she might want in life--and it might not be the army. It's a perfectly marvelous book, and one of my very favorites.

August 20, 2016

One for the Money by Janet Lambert (1946)

Candy Kane again, and this time in California. Barton, who in WHOA, MATILDA! shared ownership with Candy in their battered jeep, is now on his way home from the war in the Pacific. When he arrives he finds Candy completely absorbed in the career of a race horse named Mister Smith, owned by an engaging old man who can not afford to have him trained and "handled." Barton does not share Candy's zeal in the project at first, but in spite of himself he becomes interested.

The result is that, in spite of a serious quarrel which almost spoils everything, Mister Smith wins an important race at Santa Anita to the boundless joy of the old man and Candy and Barton. The quarrel is made up and the ending is on a high and happy note.
Love the enthusiasm
in this jacket copy!

Another typically sparkling Janet Lambert story, full of humor and gayety and the wholesome realism which girls love in their books today. (from the inside flap)


One for the Money starts with Candy meeting a horse (Mister Smith), and his old man owner, Jeb. A bit of description of our Candy:
"Her wide-spaced eyes had soft hazel flecks in them and they changed with Candy's mood, from the deep unfathomable green of the ocean when she was thoughtful to a gay liquid gold that danced now with the horse's antics. She shook back the blond hair a breeze had sprayed across her face, her companion tossed his black crest of a man in answer, and she laughed."
I always wanted my eyes to change color with my moods, as so many heroines in books do, but alas no. Always brown.

Candy is living in California with her mother Marcia and her old nurse Nanna. The war is over, and they are waiting for Candy's father and loyal Barton Reed to come home. She takes a shine to Jeb and his whole family, including Sonny who is still overseas. She adores Mister Smith and is excited about training him to be a race horse when Barton comes home.
"Barton. Barton in his plane, winging through the skies; Barton grinning, walking toward her as he had that last night on the beach in Connecticut when moonlight drenched his fine new uniform and gold lieutenant's bars; and wind whipped his necktie and his black lock."
Barton joins the endeavor to make Mister Smith a winning race horse, which includes finding him a real trainer. Interestingly, there's the slightest mention of the Japanese internment camps as they tour the stables and race track.
"'It doesn't look much as if the Japs had ever been interned here, does it?' Candy said, leaning out to read the black numbers on the corner of each building."
And that is all. One casual mention, then back to the horse training. As for Candy's sister Leigh, as usual, there is trouble in paradise. Leigh's husband Chris is working on a book and not paying any attention to Leigh.

Candy and Barton are heading out to a dance, and try to get Leigh to go with them, alas, when they go to pick up Chris, he's gone with no notice. Candy and Barton go off to the dance where they meet up with Captain Nelson, an officer from Candy's past, to whom they tell the story of Mister Smith. Captain Nelson persuades Candy to sing at the dance and raises money for Mister Smith's training. Meanwhile, Leigh leaves Chris to come home to her mother.

Barton and Candy are busy with Mister Smith's training, but despite the money from the dance, they are running short of funds again. Candy goes off to find Clark Milland, whose band she sang in years ago, but ends up at an audition for a new revue. They put her in a skimpy costume, and she sings for them, but refuses the job. She finally runs into Clark Milland, who invests in the horse. Candy arranges with his that if the horse doesn't win, she sing for him to pay back the money. Candy and Barton quarrel and he takes off.

Jeb is doing poorly, so Candy works with a Red Cross-connected friend of the family to get Sonny back home. Chris gets a job and he and Leigh get back together. Barton comes back and he's in civilian clothes--he's left the army.
"Candy put a dash of mustard in her sandwich while Barton paid the check and when they went out of the door together, she thought, isn't this just the way we'd do it? Nothing dramatic about getting together again; A cheap restaurant, great control with everything casual--and we walk out, eating steak sandwiches! And Barton thought, Gee, it's simple when two people understand each other. No fuss. I couldn't stand a girl who fussed."
Sonny makes it home, and rides Mister Smith in the big race and wins. Everything ends happily, including for Barton and Candy. Barton explains that he didn't want to stand in the way of her potential career, and gave up the army so he wouldn't be sent away from her. He's going to college, and she will too, but just for a year until they can marry.
"'We're each giving up a lot, Candy. No one's every going to hear you sing or have the joy of watching you in technicolor. I'm never going to wear a uniform like Dad and my grandfather wore, but we'll have each other.'
'And you'll be a very fine fellow just the same and I can sing for you sometimes.'"
And she sings a bit of Stardust, the song that she sang in Candy Kane. The end! Aw! The horse stuff is pretty boring to me, but I do love the singing and Barton is a terrific romantic hero.

August 18, 2016

Friday's Child by Janet Lambert (1947)

Alice Jordon was a typical "Friday's child" for she was "loving and giving," especially where her sister Gwenn, vain, selfish and clever, was concerned. Another "Friday's child" in the huge Jordon family was the eldest sister, Jenifer. Jenifer held the family together and Alice, happy, completely unself-conscious, was her able lieutenant.

 General Jordon's headquarters are now at Fort Jay, on Governor's Island, within a stone's throw of the Statue of Liberty. Since the Parrishes (minus Penny and David) live there too, it is only natural that the young people of both families should meet--even though Gwenn resists every opportunity to put her best foot forward and be the least bit friendly.

When Gwenn, uninvited, follows Jenifer to the Camp Illumination at West Point, it is faithful Alice who loyally trots off to bring her back to the island. But it is patient Jenifer who in the end must decide just what to do about the Jordon family's prima donna.

So you can see, there is never a dull moment at the Jordons', especially with the Parrishes on hand. And just to top if off Cyril, Lord Carlington, to the delight of Jenifer, returns from England for what could possibly a very long stay.

Girls who have read Just Jenifer will enjoy meeting Tippy Parrish and her brother, Bobby, and will delight in renewing their friendship with Alice, Jenifer, and all the Jordons--even unpredictable Gwenn! (from the inside flap)

True confession: It took reading this book and thinking a bit more deeply about it to realize that the cover illustration is probably supposed to be Alice. I've always thought it was Gwenn, cause she looks super pouty and RBFish.

Anyhoo! On to the second in the Jordon family series! And in this one, the Jordon and Parrish families begin to intertwine. We open with Alice and Gwenn at the pool on Governors Island and making their first overtures to the gang that hang out with Tippy and Bobby Parrish. Alice is all ready to be friends, but Gwenn hurries her away, too insecure to reach out to make friends. Hence, the conflict. Alice is steadfastly loyal to Gwenn, who does not return the affection. Jenifer steps in to try to get Gwenn to behave civilly. She flat out calls Gwenn a 'neurotic', which is a perfect description.

As the book progresses, Alice struggles between making new friends and a life for herself with her devotion to her troublesome sister Gwenn. Alice gets pulled into a swimming race between her and Bobby, and Gwenn connives to keep Bobby from the race, which only serves to worry Alice that she's jeopardized her friendship with the gang.

Despite the shenanigans, Gwenn manages to get herself invited along with Alice to Tippy's sister Penny's play and out for lunch, where we learn that Penny has husband Josh and a baby daughter, who is three months old and named Parrish MacDonald.

In other news, Cyril writes to Jenifer and asks that she come back to England to visit him when his Aunt Kate comes over to visit. Jenifer get a little overwhelmed by this offer and by his loneliness, on top of the rest of her responsibilities.
"Never in all their lives had they seen Jenifer show any sign of discouragement. She carried problems on her strong young shoulders like Pilgrim, and when they were too heavy to carry she dragged them off somewhere where no one ever saw them again. Now her shoulders sagged and they began to suspect that all their lost problems were locked up somewhere inside her."
A respite comes when Jenifer is invited up to West Point for a dance, and finds out it is Camp Illumination weekend.
"'Camp Illumination, pet. It's one of the biggest things the cadets have. The whole summer camp of tents is lighted up with strings of lights and lanterns, and it's the only time girls are allowed to walk along the rows and go into the tents and talk with everyone. And after, you mark in a parade to the field house for the dance.'"
Gwenn and the whole family get Jenifer ready for this exciting weekend, despite the fact that Gwenn is sad that she is too young to go along. Jenifer leaves, Alice is worried and rightly so, because, of course, Gwenn has run off to West Point. Gwenn takes a bus, gets a hotel room and calls out a homely cadet, who naturally asks her to the dance.

Meanwhile, poor Alice has smashed all the family's piggy banks in order to get money to go get Gwenn at West Point. She drags her back, where it's decided that Gwenn will go to boarding school. Alice, encouraged by Bobby, decides to put her foot down and not go with Gwenn.

Alice and Gwenn are invited out to Penny Parrish's house (Round Tree Farm), where they meet Carrol Parrish.
"Carrol Parrish answered the wave and ran across the grass to meet them. Her eyes were gentian blue and her pale hair was tied on her neck with a black velvet ribbon, strained away from features that were so beautifully modeled they needed no curls to frame them."
Was there ever a character as beautiful as Carrol? Knowing Gwenn's interest in dancing on the stage, Penny has invited a dance teacher out to the Farm and Gwenn dances for her. Soon, plans for dancing lessons ensue and the boarding school idea is discarded. Gwenn finds out that Jenifer set the whole thing up, visit to Penny's, dancing teacher, and for a moment, Gwenn is appreciative. For a moment.

Aunt Kate and Cyril are sailing into town and Jenifer goes to the docks for the long-awaited meeting.
"She craned and peered, shading her eyes with her hand, until a voice behind her called, 'Oh, I say!' And there he was.
'Jenifer!"
'Oh, Cyril.'
They were crushed together in the center of a milling mass and her only thought was how good he smelled, of fresh sea air and pipe tobacco. He held her against his chest until she wondered if he kept her there or if her hands locked around his neck supported her."
 Cyril has come back to ask Jenifer to marry him, but she can't--she has too much family to take care of. But it sounds lovely.
"Jenifer closed her eyes. Oh, to be taken care of, she thought. To have someone who will think of me first, after all the years I've spent planning for others. It was a beautiful dream and she held it close for a moment, then lifted her head."
The book ends with Tippy's birthday party and a dance. After the usual Gwenn misbehaving is over, everyone goes off to the dance for a wonderful time. Bobby takes Alice and even brings her gardenias. By the way, why, oh WHY did white dinner jackets go out of style? So dashing and handsome. Everyone has a marvelous time at the party, but I love the description of Alice:
"Alice was a happy little motor boat loose in the harbor. She raced up and down and in and out, not so graceful as Gwenn but covering more ground, and boys tapped Bobby so often and with such a solid grasp that his white shoulder was soiled."
The end of the book appears to be the start of something else, as Bobby offers to drive Alice to school when it starts. Exciting!

Again, this one is not a particular favorite of mine. I feel bad for poor Alice having to deal with neurotic, high-strung Gwenn, although she develops a spine. However, it is fun to see the start of the Jordon-Parrish intersection, which weaves together like a very complex spider's web.

August 15, 2016

Practically Perfect by Janet Lambert (1947)

Now Penny Parrish must make a choice. Who will it be? Is she going to marry Michael Drayton? Or will it be handsome Terry Hayes? Or how about Josh MacDonald, her manager? In this book we find Penny, again in the theater, making more and more friends, deciding against Hollywood, and dividing her time busily between the family home on Governors Island, where her father is in command, and her sister-in-law Carrol's apartment in New York.

David, her brother, returns from overseas to be introduced to his new little son, young Davy. Soon after, Carrol and David invest in a farm; and Penny finds herself torn between love of the country and a passionate devotion to her work. There's Gladstone, the house that would fulfill all her dreams of a home of her own, away from the bustle and noise of New York. But then there is Penny's first love--the theater with its bright lights and the excitement of opening night. And there is Josh to guide her on the way to stardom.

As you can see, life at twenty-one for Penny is certainly filled with problems, both big and little. All in all, these questions are happily answered in the end, however, which will make things practically perfect for both Penny and her readers. (from the inside flap)

As Practically Perfect opens, Penny has been on Broadway in a play called The Robin's Nest for two years, and the family has moved to Governors Island. In other family news, Carrol and David have a toddler named Davy, and Tippy, now 12, is growing up and becoming an actual character of her own.

In addition to starring in a Broadway show, Penny has a nice selection of admirers, including Lieutenant Colonel Hayes--as flirty and charming as ever--and Captain Michael Drayton, who was wounded as he came out of a prison camp and has retired from the army. And of course, Josh MacDonald, the director with an interest in Penny's career. Tippy asks: "'But will you bring him over to dinner again sometime? He scares me but I think he's fascinating, with his black hair and so many bones in his face.'" 

In a family conference, Penny consults her parents about Josh's suggestion that she leave The Robin's Nest so she can be open to new opportunities. Meanwhile, Carrol gets a letter indicating that David is planning on leaving the army and becoming a farmer, which in an army family like the Parrishes is quite a surprise.

Josh invites Penny out to a nightclub to see and be seen by the columnists, but she gets a little confused about Josh's intentions and whether they are career-minded or romantic.
"'Listen, child.' Josh cupped his hands around her shoulders and held her while he said earnestly, 'I haven't any illusions, Penny. I don't put myself in a class with a handsome lad like Terry Hayes or the Drayton chap. I'm just a plain honest guy who likes you and thinks he can make a great star of you.'"
As the book progresses, we get some updates on Penny's friends: Penny's father had arranged for Josh to go into a combat troop overseas (as Josh wanted), Louise Frazier is a war widow, and Dick Ford was killed in the war.

In addition to her confusion about her career, Penny is feeling conflicted about love. Carrol asks her what she would choose in a man:
"'Darned if I know,' she answered. 'Someone I could respect as you respect David; someone I could trust and believe in, and follow blindly, knowing I was safe with him.' She stopped and sighed. 'Someone deep and fine,' she ended. 'So deep and fine that, like the ocean, I never could touch the bottom of his love.'"
Josh takes Penny out to Gladstone (Carrol and David's country home) for a surprise house party, with all of the old gang. Along with sledding and other fun and games, Carrol and Penny continue their heart to heart talks about Penny's love life.
"'Darling,' she asked bluntly, 'are you in love with Josh?'
'I don't know.' Penny swallowed hard and leaned her head against Carrol. 'It gums things all up,' she complained, 'when you like someone too much. When you'd rather talk with that person than any other one; or when you think other people aren't quite as wonderful, or fine, or . . .' She trailed off with a sigh."
So yeah, she's in love with Josh, but is convinced he doesn't feel the same. In her typical, charmingly dramatic fashion, she returns to the living room where the rest of the guests are gathered.
"She felt sad, beautifully sad, now that she knew she was in love with Josh, and filled with a strange exaltation. She was glad to be alone in a far corner, playing dreamy records, her hands white on the black discs. She thought her hands looked lonely, too, and clasped them together on the edge of the rich mahogany case so that they, at least, might have companionship. The music was full of dreams and she listened to it with her eyes closed and her back to Josh. It doesn't matter what happens, she thought. I'll always know he's somewhere in the world. When I'm old and famous and he's gray and tired, I'll ask him to come to tea and then I'll tell him about tonight--and how lonely I was.
She was so lost in her future denouement that she jumped and let one hand forsake its mate when Josh touched her should and said with a sly grin, 'The others have gone in to dinner, Miss Parrish. Shall we drop the curtain on the first act and have some refreshments before the second?'"
Oh, Penny! So dramatic and so very endearing. Carrol takes Josh and Penny over to see another stately home that they're thinking about buying: Round Tree Farm. Penny loves it and wants a place of her own, just like this, but Josh doesn't seem to like the idea of the house or marriage at all. "'I'm a gruff kind of cuss,' he replied, snapping shut his lighter and staring down at it. 'Cranky, moody, and selfish.'"

Penny takes it hard and returns to Carrol and David's house, only to be proposed to by Terry Hayes. She sadly declines, as she's in love with Josh. Plus, Penny wonders "how much of his love for her was love, and how much habit."

In other news, a rumor has hit the columns about a new play for Penny and she heads in to town to ask advice from a theater contact, bringing Bobby and Tippy to lunch at the swanky, star-studded Bertrand's. Josh is there, having lunch with an attractive blond actress, which, of course, breaks Penny's heart. He's trying to persuade the blond (who happens to have a very rich husband) to take on a role in the play that he has written for Penny, but no dice. So Josh goes to call on Carrol and David to be backers, and they agree. Plans for the play commence, along with a moonlit drive, after which Penny talks to Carrol:
"Carrol smoothed the folds of her sold blue dress across her knees and wondered how much she should say to Penny. It would be cruel to raise her hope if Josh were determined not to marry; and yet, never before had she seen Penny's face so strained. 'I think Josh is in love with you,' she said slowly. 'I feel sure he is. But perhaps he doesn't know it, or doesn't want to marry.'
'Well, he ought to. He ought to know he loves me and he ought to want to be married to me, Why, goodness to Betsy!'"
The rest of the book zooms along. Penny and Josh work on the play, and get a very influential producer on their side. Penny goes frantically Christmas shopping and finds a tricycle for Davy, which she has to bring to her lunch with Josh. The sentimentality of Christmas sparks a heart to heart talk, where Josh finally declares his love for Penny, though he believes that she doesn't love him back.
"'Josh,' she said, 'come outside a minute. I want to show you something.' She walked through the carpeted lobby without looking back, and went through the revolving door. She knew Josh was behind her, and when she had gone beyond the glare of the neon sign, to the shadowy entrance of a store, she turned and reached up to put both arms around his neck. 'Darling,' she said softly, 'I love you more than anything else in the world.'"
They sort out the house stuff, and want to marry immediately, but it takes three days to get a license in New York.
"'Then we'll be married on Christmas Day,' Penny relaxed with a happy sigh. 'This is what David would call quick work,' she gloated. 'Engaged on Thursday, married on Christmas, and hard at work rehearsing on the day after New Year's. Oh, my goodness, what a practically perfect life!'"
As wedding preparations ensue, Carrol lovingly teases Penny that her husband is much the handsomer.
"'He is not.' Penny bridled and her eyes flashed. 'Josh is handsome inside. He's interesting and distinguished-looking on the outside, kind of a odd and keen and intelligent, but inside he's so beautiful it dazzles me to look at him on the outside.'"
Finally, it's Christmas and the day of the wedding. Penny gets a little pre-homesick, but Major and Mrs. Parrish talk her down and Josh and Penny marry. But wait! There's more! After a honeymoon at the Waldorf, Josh takes her over to see Carrol and David, but they're at Round Tree Farm. Josh drives Penny over there and he carries her over the threshold of her new home. He bought Round Tree Farm for them, and Carrol has decorated for her exactly as Penny had dreamed when she first saw the house. As the book ends, the couple is in their new home and Josh is preparing Penny for her first day of rehearsal the next day.

I adore this book. I love the love that Penny has for making a home: "'To nail up pictures and fuss around in a kitchen ...'" and the complex romantic relationships between Penny and Josh, and her suitors, not to mention Carrol and David as he adjusts to leaving the army. I adore the maturity that we start to see in all of Penny's old gang, who we've come to know so well over the years. The wounds of the war are present and part of life, but we see the strength of character that maintains them through hard times. And Penny's conflict between her career on the stage, her love for home, and her love for Josh and her family is beautifully drawn. Plus, these characters are just so darned lovable and charming. One of the very best of Janet Lambert's novels. Sigh!

August 13, 2016

Just Jenifer by Janet Lambert (1945)

With Just Jenifer, Janet Lambert introduces the Jordon family to her readers. As the book opens, sixteen-year-old Jenifer Jordon is taking care of her many brothers and sisters in Orlando. Her father General Jordon is off in Italy fighting in the war. Things get increasingly complicated when their housekeeper has to leave for a family emergency, and Jenifer is left to care for the family alone.

But first: let's meet the very complicated Jordon family! First, we have Jenifer, who was five years old when her mother died, "leaving her to watch over a four-year-old Peter."  When she was eight, her father married again, and she acquired two ready-made sisters, Gwenn and Alice, who were a little younger than Peter. When she was ten the twins were born (Neal and Susan). Then Vance, then Bitsy, then General Jordon's second wife passed away. In addition, General Jordon's nephew Donny came to live with the family when his parents were killed in a car accident.

(Trying to keep this all straight for future reference: In Just Jenifer, Jennifer is 16, Peter is 15, Gwenn is 14, Alice is 12, Donny is 10, Neal and Susan are 6, Vance is 5 and Bitsy is 3.) 

Jenifer fires the housekeeper, which leaves her alone with the children and one servant, Rosie, "who was big-boned and willing and had trailed along with the Jordons from an army post in Kansas, but she never knew Bitsy's left rubber from the right or believed in clocks or routine." Jenifer decides not to go back to school (despite her love of writing) and plans to run the family like the army that is such a part of her family's life. They need to follow her orders, take on responsibilities like k.p., and if they get in trouble, the family will hold a court martial. The family even plans on daily reveille and retreats.

She talks curmudgeonly storekeeper Mr. Cadwallader into renting his late son's house (on a lake with a garden and room for the family horse Prince Royal) to the family. On the way, the family picks up a few extras, including Mr. Cadwallader's daughter Lacey, lonesome officer Andy Compton, and a new family dog, Rollo. 

In an endearing scene, Andy helps Jenifer get Prince Royal hooked up to a carriage.
"The young lieutenant took off his blouse and dropped it on the grass as if he'd been looking a long time for a fight, and when he flung his cap beside it Jenifer saw that his hair was golden-red, not sunburned. Looking at his stubborn lower lip that had a jaw to match it, Jenifer untied Royal from the palm tree and thought it would be fun to watch two redheads battle each other."
During a quiet afternoon and lost in thought, Jenifer meets Cyril, when he is drawing her picture without her notice: "'Would you mind frightfully turning your head a little? I'd like to catch your profile.'"
"He was an odd-looking boy. His face was very thin and he had dark long-lashed eyes that seemed to have burned all the color out of his white skin. Only his mouth looked alive, as if it and his eyes, together, had battled the life from the rest of his face. His brown hair was wavy and worn too long, in the careless effect movie actors have stolen from artists and poets; and studying him, Jenifer thought that but for his modern white cardigan and carefully creased gray slacks he might have posted for Percy Bysshe Shelley sitting with a pencil clasped between sensitive nervous fingers."
British Cyril is different than the hardy army boys that Jenifer knows. He came to stay with his Aunt Kate after his brother and sister were killed in an air raid. His aunt is suspicious of Jenifer and her rambunctious family and their influence on delicate Cyril, but after Jenifer collapses of exhaustion in Mr. Cadwallader's store, Aunt Kate relents. She sends over her housekeeper's sister Ellin to help out, and Jenifer is to take lessons with Cyril's tutor so she can finish school. 

The introduction of Ellin, (who becomes part of the family and appears in nearly all of the Jordon family novels):
"Ellin McCarthy got out of the car and leaned over to shake the wrinkles out of her ample black skirt. She was a big, jolly woman with twinkling eyes above a button nose and her Irish brogue rolled out musically. 'Tis a pleasure to do what I can for ye, after ye bein' so good to me Patrick,' she said, 'and I'm glad to be takin' the motherless darlin's under me wing.'"
The families become closer, Cyril gets tougher and stronger, and he and Jenifer grow closer. Meanwhile, Andy has been asking Lacey to marry him for ages, and when he finally actually declares his love, she accepts. The book wraps up with Andy and Lacey's wedding, and Cyril heading off to Long Island with his aunt, bringing Gwenn, Alice, and Donny for company.  

But before they go, Jenifer gives them a pep talk:
"'Remember,' she said, standing before the screen door and surveying them, 'you're a soldier's children. You're 'army brats.' And don't you do anything, ever, that will reflect discredit on that soldier or will make the army ashamed to have you as a part of it. Will you remember that?'"
Yes, they will. And with that, the good-bys are said and Cyril and company board the train to New York. 
"He saw them all as the train moved along: Bitsy, Neal, Vance, Susan, Peter. And looking out at them he knew he would always see them, the little Jordons, as an obbligato in a concerto, as the background in a painting. For him, the motif, the lovely figure in the foreground was, and always would be, just Jenifer."  
Ah! Very lovely. Reading this book just reminded me of a few things that Janet Lambert must have really loved: the army, horses and above all, big families with all their joys and challenges. Even only child Lacey and officer Andy can't stay away from the lure of the dynamic Jordon family. And it is astonishing that Jenifer manages to take care of all the family. I can feel the relief when Ellin comes to stay, and a few of the children are sent off for a while.  It's an excellent introduction to this large and complicated family.

August 9, 2016

Whoa, Matilda! by Janet Lambert (1944)

Everyone who has read CANDY KANE has kept her fingers crossed that the irrepressible Candy would somehow continue her helpful, hopeful, unpredictable ministrations to her difficult family at Fort Benning. And here she is! This time the Kanes are living in a hotel in crowded Washington, awaiting Colonel Kane's orders to leave on what turns out to be a highly secret overseas mission. Barton Reed is now a full-fledged private first class, and owns a hysterical old coupe named Matilda. Matilda lacks figure, dignity and self-control, and eventually becomes Candy's most prized possession--because Bart can see no possible way of keeping the delightful old jalopy now that he is in the Army.

Both Matilda and Candy eventually find themselves a new home near Fort Benning with Candy's delightful friend, Jane. And with them go the Kanes' two problem children--Candy's most difficult sister Leigh, and Marcia, their mother. Candy is growing up--she's 16 now--and other boys besides Barton are beginning to appreciate her sunny, lovable charm. So the prickly little plot beings to hatch. To tell the rest would be unfair to Candy and the Army. Each new book by Janet Lambert seems to be even better than the last. And WHOA, MATILDA! is the best to date. (from the inside flap)

Is it just me or has Candy Kane changed rather dramatically from her first novel? Seriously! She went from this:



To this:



I mean, jeepers. It's only been two years!

Anyway, Whoa, Matilda starts out problematically for me. Remember what I said about the Parrish cook Trudy? And how richly drawn she was as a character? Even though I am willing to give Lambert the benefit of the doubt (and seventy years of history), her introductory words still give me pause. We open in a Washington hotel, where everyone "was working to win the war."
"Joe gave a twitch to the very white glove that covered his very black hand and leaned out the door of his elevator. He looked anxiously at the clock in the hotel lobby, and his brow corrugated into chocolate furrows."
Joe (married to Kane cook Cleoretta) takes Major Kane, then his wife down in the elevator, and then finally, Miss Candy Kane, who tells him that Barton Reed is in town. The beautiful Leigh is now married to a young army officer named Chris Mathews. Barton chugs into town in his beat-up old car Matilda and meets up with Barton.
"They stood appraising each other, their hands locked hard into a bridge that spanned a two years' separation, until Barton grinned and said in what was meant to be a compliment, 'You aren't as skinny as you used to be.'
'Hunhuh. And I see you still wrestle with your hair,'
'Darn stuff.' He controlled an impulse to smooth back the annoying lock and they remained like two smiling statues, with Barton not knowing quite how to separate their hands or what he should say next."
Exciting news? Barton enlisted instead of going to West Point. Much is made of his olive-green "rough woolly blouse" instead of cadet gray. Why?
"'But, I'll tell you, Candy, I didn't think I ought to waste so much time just playing football and going to dances when other guys ... Well, I thought I could get into things quicker this way. I don't expect you to understand.'"
All seems well, until Candy gets back to the hotel, chats with Joe and discovers that something is amiss in the Kane household. Joe takes Candy up in the elevator and then (cringe-inducingly):
"'Oh Lawd,' he muttered, shaking his head, 'I jes' cain't stand it if somethin's gone wrong with my Kanes.'"
I think the reason that Trudy gets a pass from me and Joe doesn't, is that Trudy is an introduced, well-developed character. Joe exists purely to reflect on the Kanes. Plus, all the "lawdy, lawdy" stuff is so very stereotypical and one-dimensional. He is drawn more fully as the book goes on, thankfully.

Marcia (Candy's handful of a mother) is hysterical because Major Kane is going overseas on a top-secret mission, which she does a bad job of keeping secret. Leigh's husband is gone as well, so it's up to the Kane girls to keep house again.

Leigh, Candy and loyal Nanna move in with Jane Cameron, now Jane Morton and her baby Cammy. (Marcia decides to live in a nearby hotel instead.) All arrive to news of an invasion in Africa, where it's likely the Kane men have been sent.

Barton heads off to Fort Benning and sells Matilda to Candy. In an attempt to raise funds, Candy tries to see bandleader Clark Milland to see if she can sing with him. Leigh dismisses her, despite the fact that Dirk said:
"'Jane, there isn't anything that kid couldn't do; radio, television, movies--she's got everything in that soft, heart-warming voice of hers. I wonder what she'll do about it.'
They had all wondered; after the soldiers' show when Candy had been smothered in compliments, written up in the newspapers, and urged by one of the big motion picture companies to come to Hollywood for a screen test. But Candy had done nothing. She wanted no career, she said. She just liked to sing; it was fun singing."
Candy waits for him in the hotel lobby to no avail, then dresses up like a maid and waits for him in his hotel room. He listens to her and works with her on a song, but tells her quite definitively, he will never have a girl singer in his band. She still considers it the best day ever, and heads off to the dance that he's playing at with a boy from her school.

Clark Milland finds her at the dance and recruits her to sing to kick off the bond drive.
"'I said I'd never use a girl singer in my band. Well, I won't, so don't get any ideas. Lonnie Mayo is sick tonight and the committee for this shindig insists the bond drive must be opened with God Bless America. It's a terrible song but the public likes it. We'll play the Star-Spangled Banner at the end, but no one can just play God Bless America. The song's impossible; but it's got to be sung.'"
I love the idea that God Bless America by Irving Berlin is a terrible song. It's a fabulous song and should be our national anthem, not the completely impossible to sing Star-Spangled Banner. Anyhoo, Candy sings, people buy war bonds, and Barton is there in begrudging admiration.

The book goes on and the family prepares for Christmas. Marcia and Leigh are determined not to celebrate, but Candy talks them into it. Leigh is even secretly working on a nursery for young mothers whose husbands are off at war; Marcia is wildly involved with the war effort.

Candy gets invited by Clark Milland to go on a bond-drive tour in Florida, to Barton's disappointment. But he comes down to visit:
"It was a new Barton, one she had never seen before. He sat at the table and talked with men; of delaying action and the mobile strength of an armored unit, of radar and a wing command."
Candy finishes her tour, and Barton springs the news that he's been recommended for Officers' Candidate School. Meanwhile, the family learns that Dirk has been wounded and is coming home on leave. As the family prepares to leave Dirk and Jane and their baby alone, Candy says good-bye to Barton.
"'And now--gosh, Candy, we've got to say good-by.' He put his arm around her shoulders and stood looking down into her upturned eyes that were wide and green in the moonlight. 'You're the best pal a guy ever had,' he said softly, 'and there's never going to be anyone else for me, ever.'
'Nor for me, Barton.'
'Okay, we've got that settled.' He kissed her quickly, laid his cheek against hers, then released her."
Sigh! Could anything be sweeter? The relationship of Candy and Barton has a beautiful progression, from annoying little pal to more adult love. Plus, I love the softening and maturing of Marcia and Leigh, and the cold, hard truths of war as seen with Jane and Dirk. Lovely.

Candy Kane by Janet Lambert (1943)

Candy wasn't as pretty as her sister Leigh, but she had a wistful little combination of something else in her make-up that made people love her and trust her and want her to be around. At Fort Benning, for instance, where Major Kane was stationed, Candy was absolutely essential to the success of every party or outing. Leigh and Mother, however, were of another stripe, and made the going rather difficult for everyone . . . especially for a certain young soldier. Later on, in fact when it was much too late, they discovered their mistake and from a distance Candy could smile her quiet, small, happy smile.

Here is a story with the same quality of wholesome freshness and gaiety that characterized the Parrish stories, and girls will find Candy every bit as lovable a heroine as the delightful Penny.  (from the inside flap)

In the fourth of Janet Lambert's locket series, we take a sharp left away from the adventures of Penny Parrish and family. Let's meet Candy Kane! We open in New York City, where the Kane family is preparing to move to Fort Benning in Georgia as Major Kane is going into active service in the Army. Fourteen-year-old Candy Kane is on board, but her very beautiful (but shallow) eighteen-year-old sister Leigh and her equally shallow mother Marcia are decidedly against the move.

Candy Kane meets Barton Reed.
It's fascinating to start off a novel with two such challenging characters, especially after how delightful nearly all of the Parrish family were. It's also an untraditional start, as Candy Kane moves to Fort Benning with her father to keep house until Leigh and Marcia follow. But she does pretty well! She finds them a cook--Cleoretta--and meets the Reeds, the charming family next door. She first meets sixteen-year-old Barton Reed, then his sister Anne, and the whole family, including his lovely mother who she is soon calling Mom.

Just as she is settling in, her mother (always Marcia--never even Mother) sends over some hideous modern furniture to make a point about her unhappiness with the move. Lambert does a beautiful job with balancing Candy's sweet nature and loyalty to her family with her understanding that her mother is a handful. Here's a taste:
"'My mother has wonderful taste.' She was afraid to meet Anne's eyes so she too sat down, and because the relaxed lines of the chair refused her the dignity of upright repose, she leaned her head back and remarked loudly and straight at the ceiling, 'Everyone admires my mother's taste. And if it weren't for Daddy and Leigh and me she could be the best interior decorator in the whole United States.'"
Candy pretty much wanders around being helpful and sweet and awkward and endearing herself to one and all, including Jane Cameron, who works at the club. She even helps out Barton's steady and finds herself in an awkward position regarding the Junior Hop, when he invites Candy to make his steady jealous and she roundly turns him down.
"Candy refused to admit even to herself that the Junior Hop held any interest for her. And on Saturday night she watched Anne pin twin gardenias in her black hair, then go twirling about her bedroom in chiffon skirts that billowed in the breezes she made. A dozen boys had asked Anne to save dances for them and she rattled off their names while Candy sat on the floor, her legs crossed under her blue pleated skirt, her small face tilted upward in pride without envy. But when Anne had driven off in Jack's family's car and her mother's velvet evening wrap Candy hated to return to her own empty house."
So what does our Candy Kane do?
"She was going to the hop after all. Not as the others went--inside with the heat and noise--but outside under the stars where the music would be softly sweet and she could lie on the ground and enjoy it."
So she finds herself a spot under a tree near the club, spreads out her coat and "wilted bar of chocolate and a package of chewing gum. Not for all the world would she have changed places with Anne."
 "'Sometimes I wonder why I spend a lonely night,' she crooned happily to the opening bars of 'Star Dust.' not wondering, and certainly not lonely. She looked up at the sky and sang softly at first. Then because she was so happy there in the dark, she let her voice rise with the music until it reached the walk where a passing soldier heard it and stopped."
So she sings, and he listens and soon introduces himself, and they sing together. His name is Corporal Dirk Morton and he walks her home, and she invites him to dinner, along with new friends Jane Cameron, her father, loyal nurse Nanna and Barton. She plans a marvelous party, but Marcia and Leigh are due to arrive soon and ruin all the fun. And they do. Leigh is snooty about Candy hanging around with soldiers, and disdainful of Corporal "Corp" Morton, which works out perfectly well since sweet Jane and he hit it off.

Of course, when Leigh finds out Corp is the heir to a massive fortune, she changes her tune. But too late! Ha! She meets one of Corp's friends Chris Chandler.
"'And what's this Chris like?' Mrs. Kane sat down beside the dressing table and smiled at Leigh's lovely reflection. 'Is he attractive?'
'He's horrid. He hasn't any money or position, and he was just a reporter in New York. He was writing a play when he volunteered in the army so Dirk things he's a mental genius.'"
Candy Kane in her stout brogues,
----blocking her sister Leigh.
And that might be all you need to know about Leigh and Marcia. What else happens? Candy serves as Barton's errand boy and dogsbody until she gets fed up and tells him off. She also sets up Jane and Dirk after a misunderstanding separates them. And even more exciting news? Corp recruits her to sing in a show on the post and Marcia reluctantly agrees, though she demands that Candy get a permanent, which Candy is less than excited about.

She talks to Barton about the show and her hair.
'Well, gee,' he said, well-meaning but about as soothing as an electric shock, 'even if you don't do so well people know you're just a little high-school kid. And if your hair looks funny they won't pay any attention to it.'
'Thanks, Barton.' Candy walked to the curb and was in the middle of the street before his words shook her loose from her fear. She whirled around and there was nothing meek in her answer when she shouted back at him, 'I'll do all right. You don't have to worry about that. I'll do better than anyone else could do! And my hair will look all right, too.'"
LOVE IT. Adorable. I'm going to use it as a daily affirmation. The night of the show, Corp introduces her:
"'And now,' he was saying to them, 'we have a little girl who is going to sing for you. I know you will like her because she's the darling of the post. And more than that, she's all the Judy Garlands and Deanna Durbins, and sweet little girls you like to know, rolled into one. Here she is--Candy Kane.'"
She sings and she's the darling of the show--even her mother sees her in a new light. And so does Barton. But don't worry, Candy is sensible as always.

Candy Kane, girl singer.
I have always dreamed of being a girl singer in a big band, so I love the plot of Candy singing and the description of her singing with such heart.
"And Candy, sang, again and again. They refused to let her go until at last, in desperation, she stepped quite close to the edge of the stage and leaned across the footlights to coax, as if they were all her friends, 'Oh, thank you, so very much. But there's such a lot of wonderful show left, and--Well, don't you think it would be fun it we call sing 'Deep in the Heart of Texas' together, so we can clap our hands?'"
So very sweet. I love the complexity of Candy's family relationships, and the complexity of her relationship with Barton--her naivete and her sweetness. And as opposed to the Parrish family stories of people who live and breathe Army, it's an interesting twist to meet a family who is just now experiencing Army life.