Friday, February 5, 2010

Carney's House Party by Maud Hart Lovelace

8. Carney's House Party - companion book in the Betsy-Tacy series
by Maud Hart Lovelace
juvenile fiction, 1949
library copy
finished, 2/3/10

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.


  1. Nan,

    This is a lovely review. You've made me want to read it too.


  2. I love your header! What a fun book, don't you just love reading about the past and the early century! Did I say that??? oh my goodness, what will people be saying about our century???
    hugs and smiles...

  3. I just added this to my Amazon wish list. I also found this book while there: Future in Handbasket: The Life and Letters Behind Carney's House Party

    It might be right up your alley!!!

  4. I think this book sounds truly innocent and delightful. Do I think the younger people of today sit on a bench and contemplate life? NO!! But I'm sure there are a few kids out there like Carney!!

  5. What a wonderful review! It makes me want to sit down and reread this book. Have you read Emily of Deep Valley yet? That's my absolute favourite of the series!

  6. sadly not available at my library...but perhaps Interlibrary loan??? I'll give it a try, the book sounds so sweet.

    I just read and reviewed The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck, have you read it? I enjoyed it very much.


    PS Love the header photo :)

  7. Oh Nan, I'm so glad you loved this book! Doesn't it just pull you right in? I always feel like I am at the house party, too, right down to crawling through the window to the sleeping porch. :)

    As for liquor, well, I think it has always depended upon with whom a person parties. While I was a teenager in the 70's I went to many church youth group parties and a few school parties and there was never any liquor served. Of course now, my hubby's company parties usually involve liquor, but they're the only parties I attend which serve liquor. All the other gatherings I attend do not--and we always have great fun without it.

    Anyway, again, I'm so thrilled you loved Carney's House Party and thanks for telling us about it. Maybe I'll reread my copy soon. :) Blessings, Debra

  8. Thank you so much, Janell. It is such a lovely story.

    Linda, thanks! I have the old ad framed in my house. This is a very good historical story as well as a great book.

    Laura, I saw that book! I hope to read it someday. This year I want to go through all the Betsy-Tacy books.

    Staci, yes there are, and I know some of them!! One is the young man I mentioned in my The Murder on the Links review.

    Rambling Fancy, I haven't read Emily. I hope to someday soon.

    Niki, my copy came through ILL. I haven't read The Good Earth. I'll come read your review.

    Debra, I was hoping you'd see this post! Thank you for the suggestion! I just loved the sleeping porch. Lovelace does a great job in describing the weather. I could feel the heat, and the storm. Such a good writer. Mostly what I meant in terms of the alcohol was young, college-age parties. It's not easy for kids who don't want to drink to find many like-minded souls.

  9. Great review! This is also one of my favorites. When I was a senior in high school, a friend decided to attend Vassar and I got this out of the library to lend her. Things had changed a bit, alas (in particular, she mentioned that the men from West Point came to dances at Vassar hoping to "score" which is another thing besides alcohol that Carney didn't have to worry about!), but I was thrilled to be a bridesmaid for her several years later in the Vassar chapel.

  10. So glad you are enjoying Maud Hart Lovelace's novels. I adored her Betsy-Tacy books as a young girl, and am currently rereading Emily of Deep Valley - a firm favourite! I'm so happy they are being republished.

  11. CLM, thank you so much for your story! I loved reading it.

    Skirmish of Wit, I will get to Emily sometime! So many have mentioned it.

  12. Emily of Deep Valley is my favorite, set after Carney's H.P, with appearances by the Crowd at age 20. It has one of my favorite lines ever from a book -- "...and then she started to cry, because she knew she'd never be lonely again". wonderful book. Enjoy your blog very much.

  13. Thank you, Colleen for the recommendation and for your kind words.

  14. Sounds lovely! I'll see if our library has it. Oh, and Pantry is waiting for me! And, I love Susan Branch, above. I sure hope she does another cookbook.

  15. I absolutely ADORED the Betsey-Tacy books as a child (probably in part because I grew up in Minnesota), and it makes me sad that none of my other friends had ever read them! And I had no idea that Maud Hart Lovelace had written other things besides that delightful series. Thanks for helping me discover her other books!

  16. Tara, I'm so pleased!

    Read the Book, it was kind commenters who told me about the three companion books to the B-T series. I've been so happily surprised at how many people love these books. And they really are just as good reading them as an adult.

  17. As I get older, I do tend to romanticize days gone that a lot of times I sound like my grandparents and parents when I start off sentences with "when I was a kid". That is a great question about thinking things through. Doesn't seem to be a whole lot of quiet time for that. Another one to add to my Lovelace list:)

  18. Book Psmith, I think you'll like it so much.

  19. I like the sound of this book. We can learn so much about the present from what we read of the past. I also like the lack of commercialism and brand names in vintage literature.

  20. Thank you Vintage Reads for your note. You are so very right. Have you ever read Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter? If not, I'm quite sure you would love it. The woman who writes this blog:

    told me about it years ago. It was such a pleasure to read.


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