A Sweet Girl GraduateMarch 4, 2007
L.T. Meade is a favorite of mine. She wrote a couple of hundred books, mostly for girls, in the late 19th century.
The first L.T. Meade book I read was A Sweet Girl Graduate. Obviously I couldn’t resist a title like that. It’s set in a women’s college in a fictionalized version of Oxford called Kingsdene. The heroine–or one of them–is Priscilla Penywern Peel, a girl so poor that even before her aunt scrapes together the money for her to attend college, Priscilla and her sisters are pretty undernourished. But considering that they have no income, somebody needs to start earning money, and so Priscilla has to go off and get educated so she can become a teacher.
This makes her a hell of a lot more serious than the other girls at her school. When I first came to college, I had an idea that I was going to use some wildly inappropriate book as a guidebook for each stage of my life, and ASGG was going to be the college one. I’ve never managed to successfully use a book as a guide to any part of my life, but it wouldn’t have been so wildly inappropriate if I had. Women’s colleges haven’t changed so much in the past century or so. Priscilla, who spends all her time studying and doesn’t seem to know how to have fun, doesn’t fit in so well.
Maggie Oliphant, on the other hand, is rich, beautiful, talented, and popular. She’s also prone to weird mood swings–she has “bad half hours” during which she broods about her friend Annabel Lee, who, of course, died young of a fever or something. Maggie takes Priscilla under her wing, saying “The poor girl is as queer as her name, but it gives me a kind of aesthetic pleasure to be good to people,” which is a favorite line of mine.
It’s at this point in the summary that I always want to say “hijinks ensue”. I don’t know if it’s really true. Things that do ensue: an auction of one of the wealthier girls’ belongings, a theft of which Priscilla is suspected, and romantic complications. There’s also a character called Rosalind who is beautiful and mildly evil, which, you know, is always a plus.