Maunderings

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Sun Sep 5 09:54:46 EDT 1999


I think I'm only partly back from the void (very Here Now), and I know I've
missed quite a few posts, so apologies if I seem more disconnected than
usual.

Mary Ann wrote:
5. I forget who posted, indicating her (or possibly his) discomfort with
the relationship
>between Polly and Tom when Polly was in her mid-teens. I empathize
>strongly. When I first read
>_Fire and Hemlock_, I was simply bowled over by it. On the second or third
>reading, however, I
>got creeped out-- *the more so that I had had a moderately romantic
>relationship with an adult
>when I was 15-16* (see footnote * below if you're nosy, please). (I am
>inveterately nosy,
>myself.) I came eventually to feel that What Girls are Like When Fifteen
>is a very intimate part
>of what the novel is about. Indeed, this is made rather explicit. I agree
>with Jones that 15-
>year-old girls are Looking for Trouble,

At least I now have an explanation for why I've never been disturbed by the
F&H relationship, but have been by Mahy's _Changeover_ :  I've clearly
never been a 15-year old girl, but have been a mother.  At least going by
the definition of 15-year old girls above. :-)

Some day I hope I will figure out the real reason for my lack of
discomfort, but I do still think there is something in my reaction to the
two books which is indicative of something or other.  In F&H, which I read
(as I did all DWJ's books) first as an adult, I never felt any distancing
of involvement caused by my age.  Ivy is such a real character - so acutely
right in her wrongness - that she elicits a strong reaction from readers of
very different ages.  How many people have described Ivy as chilling?  I
myself from time to time  "do an Ivy" inside my head (but only inside it.
Mrs. Bennett is fun to do aloud, but Ivy is too potent).  Why?  I think it
is partly to laugh myself out of self-pity mode if I'm heading there, but
also partly to remind myself that I haven't behaved as Ivy does, even when
things were really tough.  Clearly no distancing there.

In _Changeover_, on the other hand, there was a lot that I loved, but from
time-to-time my Mother Voice would suddenly pop up and say something was
just *wrong*.  And it always centred on Laura's mother.  She was very much
a real person, not just a sort of wallpaper mother figure, in her life and
relationships.  But when it came to the "magic" element, she was no better
than say, Buffy's mother: loving, concerned, but completely clueless
regarding the gifts of the child.  Why this sort of splitting of the
mother, common to a lot of kids fantasy?  Either she can be a good mother,
but totally out of touch with the gifts/magic element (by far the more
common case), or be allowed the gifts herself but be a "bad" mother (as
Sorry's was).  Almost as if an _adult_ female can't have the abilities in
both the Magic and relationships.  I think some of my sudden joltings out
of absorption in the book occurred when the mother's actions suddenly
changed from being her own, into seeming just handy plot contrivances.

Now, I'm not prepared to stumble into the error of saying that because of
all this I think that _Changeover_ is a worse book than F&H.  (See my
artful scuttling away from Trouble?)  But isn't it another example of DWJ's
exceptional strengths as a writer that nothing can be assumed about any
character simply on the basis of their age or role in a book?  Not that
there's an overabundance of good mothers!  But, for example in F&H, there's
a nice parallel between Fiona's and Gran's actions towards the end.  No
easy pegging such as Gran being wiser because she's older, or the more
likely opposite, that because Fiona is Polly's contemporary, she must be
stronger/clearer-sighted/more gifted than Gran.  They both just help Polly
to see how things really are, and point her in the direction of the action
she must take.

There is a follow-up thought to all this rambling, I'm afraid, but this is
more than long enough, and I need to get it off and out of my head to
finish thinking about the next bit.  Isn't it sad how something can seem
very convincing as you're sitting stuck in traffic, and seem much lamer
when you've finished writing it down?


Hallie
hallieod at indigo.ie



'On the other hand, the early worm gets eaten.'
        --Anon


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