8. Carney's House Party - companion book in the Betsy-Tacy series
by Maud Hart Lovelace
juvenile fiction, 1949
When I wrote about Betsy-Tacy, a reader left me a note saying that Carney's House Party was her second favorite in the series. I immediately emailed my library and borrowed a copy.
Well, I just may think that this book is not my second favorite, but my favorite favorite. I loved it. It is about a young woman, Caroline, nicknamed Carney, going back home for the summer after her second year at Vassar. Before vacation began, we got to spend a little time learning about her college life. I was fascinated reading about this early 'female' college. Carney is a little uneasy because her sophisticated 'eastern' roommate wants to come visit Deep Valley, Minnesota in the summer. The reader learns what unfamiliar territory the midwest was to those back east during this time.
Some girls thought there were Indians running wild in the streets out there. Moreover, they thought that all culture and refinement ended at the Hudson. They were astonished at how well she played the piano. They were amazed that her clothes were so modish, and it meant nothing to them when Carney explained that she and her mother had bought them in Minneapolis. They confused Minneapolis with Indianapolis and both cities seemed equally remote.The 'house party' is a group of friends, old and new, who stay with Carney at her home for a month during that summer. And what a glorious summer it is. Reading this in 2010, almost one hundred years after the setting of the book in 1911, I was struck most by the lack of alcohol. These young people were of college age, and got together for picnics, and singing, and dancing, and visiting their families. They were happy. They had fun. With no alcohol. In our time, there aren't many parties where alcohol isn't a big part of the festivities, and indeed sometimes the reason for them. We read of the problems of binge drinking in England, and here. College 'weekends' begin on Thursdays. 'Party schools' mean something entirely different from these innocent parties. It's easy for this modern day woman to view the earlier life with a modicum of nostalgia. Of course, the troubles of the times aren't very visible in the story. These up-to-date girls and fellows go to college. They are not poor. They are part of a caring community.
When Carney has a problem, she goes to a bench on a hill at Vassar to think things through. I couldn't help but wonder if people do this now. Do they think things through? Are the worlds of the young so busy and noisy and interrupted that there is no quiet time? Are responses quick and off-the-cuff instead of measured and thought through?
But this isn't like me. I don't live in the past. I'm a present-day sort of person. And I am aware of good and bad in all times. It's just that this cheerful, very well-written book really does present a lovely view of the world. I was happy to be able to visit Deep Valley, Minnesota in 1911 for the time I was reading this wonderful book.
This was my second book for the You've Got Mail Reading Challenge.