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About Peggy Saville and More About Peggy

November 15, 2011

So, this is what happens when I ask for recommendations: I download everything that looks appealing, read maybe half of it, and leave the rest sitting on my kindle indefinitely. Except that I also sometime come back to things. I’ve had Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey’s Peggy Saville books on my kindle since James recommended them more than a year ago. I finally got around to reading them last weekend, and I really enjoyed them. I mean, I thought there were some structural issues, and also when I look back at the two books it seems like nothing ever actually happened, but it was entertaining nothing.

Mr. Asplin is a vicar and he also prepares young men for college. The first boy who boarded with the Asplins was Arthur Saville, and everyone loved him, so when Mrs. Saville writes and says she’d like to leave her daughter Peggy with the Asplins while she joins her husband in India, they’re happy to have her. Peggy joins a group of young people that includes Mr. Asplin’s pupils Robert Darcy and Oswald Elliston, his son Maxwell (in the second book his name is sometimes Rex), and his daughters Esther (serious and studious) and Mellicent (plump and stupid and yes her name is really spelled that way). After some awkward and sometimes hilarious posturing, Peggy becomes the ringleader of the group and shows herself to be clever, creative, talented, bossy, and occasionally thoughtless. She and Rob become especially good friends, enlisting each other for help and support for everything from Peggy’s homesickness to the magazine contest Rob wants to enter.

I like Peggy and Rob’s relationship a lot. I also like that Peggy is allowed to have faults, and that the book doesn’t try to correct them. Rob’s beautiful sister Rosalind has faults too, but she’s not a bad person and she and Peggy go from not liking each other to liking each other very much without either of them really changing, which is cool.  And that’s About Peggy Saville.

The second book skips ahead a few years. Peggy has, in the intervening time, spent two more years with the Asplins, and gone out to India to be with her parents. When More About Peggy opens, they’re returning to England, planning to buy a house and settle down. Peggy is recognizably herself, but also recognizably more grown up (I gained a lot of respect for Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey over the course of these two books) and it’s not hard to believe that Rob’s older brother Hector, who happens to be on the ship with them, would fall in love with her. And Peggy recognizes the fact and isn’t really sure what to do about it.

That’s kind of the most fun thing about this book, because it’s a really enjoyable mix of practical and romantic. Peggy makes no attempt to disguise to herself the fact that when she’s returning to England, she’s really looking forward to reconnecting with Rob. And when they meet, there are no stupid things keeping them apart; they’re really pleased to see each other. Peggy and Rob are both refreshingly straightforward all the time. When things get (moderately) complicated, it’s only because Hector thinks he’s in a different story.

Then there’s Peggy’s brother Arthur, who is in love with Rosalind Darcy. Everyone’s in love with Rosalind, because she’s super pretty, but Arthur is the one who she’s a little in love with back. And obviously this is a really common romance trope, one that’s kind of angsty in a really enjoyable way, and then…Rosalind decides it’s more important for her to have money than to be with Arthur, and they both move on. Romance and practicality. It’s awesome.

I mean, I didn’t love everything about this book — there’s the stereotypical fat-and-jolly thing Mellicent has going on, and a bit of weird class stuff, and a bit that’s super depressing and also more religious than I would wish — but mostly I’m just really pleased with Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey right now. So pleased that next time I write about one of her books I may refer to her simply as ‘Vaizey’.

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4 comments

  1. When Mrs. G de H V is good, she’s very, very good. Have you read her “An Unknown Lover”? It’s kind of silly, but also great, and has the whole romance-and-practicality thing going on.

    But when she’s bad, she’s dire. “A Question of Marriage” is the worst kind of Deeply Moral Victorian anti-woman stuff and quite utterly dismal.


    • No, the only other thing of hers I’ve read is The Heart of Una Sackville which I loved the first 90% of and hated the last 10% of. And just going off that, I’d agree with your assessment.


  2. Speaking of recommendations, I sincerely apologize for recommending “The Beloved Woman”.
    Nearly everyone turns out to be jaw-droppingly awful. By the end of it, I was positively stabby.


    • Yuck. Thanks for the heads up



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