The Glad Books, Part 2June 6, 2007
Pollyanna’s Jewels, by Harriet Lummis Smith, is the fourth Glad Book. It follows Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms, which is also by Smith. Either book three covers at least five years, which I kind of doubt, or Pollyanna’s Jewels skips ahead a few years. It starts with Pollyanna and Jimmy moving to a suburb of Boston with their three kids: Jimmy Junior, who is five or six, Judy, who is probably three, and the baby, who is only ever referred to as “Baby”.
This book reminds me a lot of one of the later Anne of Green Gables books — Anne of Ingleside, I think. Like Anne, Pollyanna stays home and keeps house, takes care of her children, has friends in the neighborhood, and endures pet troubles and visits from irritating relatives. It’s sort of dark in bits, too.
One of the storylines involves a little boy named Philip who is shunned by the entire neighborhood because his parents ran away from their respective families to be together, the mother leaving behind several children from her first marriage. The women in the neighborhood are horribly cruel about it and Pollyanna feels really bad. She tries to be nice to Philip, but she can’t let her kids play with him because if they did, they would be shunned too.
Toward the end of the book, Philip’s parents die in an influenza epidemic, first the father and then the mother. After the father dies, they discover that a) Philip’s parents were never actually married, and b) that Philip’s father never made a will, so all his money goes back to his real wife. Pollyanna’s friend and neighbor Mrs, McGill, a lonely widow, ends up adopting Philip, but she still has a hard time getting the rest of the neighborhood to acknowledge him.
Aside from another plotline involving a neighbor who doesn’t take care of her kid, the rest is housekeeping troubles, children being amusing, and the like. But it’s not too perfect or over the top. Also, they end up having to tell Jamie that Jimmy is Ruth’s real nephew, and he basically has a tantrum, but Pollyanna yells at him until he stops being stupid.
I don’t know how long they end up living outside of Boston, but it seems that they travel around quite a bit later on. The sixth book is called Pollyanna’s Western Adventure, and the seventh is Pollyanna in Hollywood, which sounds really incongruous, I think. The comes Pollyanna’s Mexican Castle, or something like that, and then book nine, Pollyanna’s Door to Happiness, which is the other one I have. According to that one, they’ve just spent a year in Mexico, and ten year-old Judy didn’t want to leave. If anyone can fill in any gaps in the story, let me know!
The family arrives in New York City, where Jimmy knows a guy who might be able to give him a job. Jimmy’s an engineer, and he must be a good one because he immediately gets asked to replace someone on something called the Swan Expedition, which is leaving the next day, or maybe the day after.
Meanwhile, Pollyanna has taken the kids shopping and discovers that their bank failed a couple of months previously. I think this book takes place in the early to mid-thirties, based on the ages of the characters and the publication dates of the earlier books. Also, people occasionally mention the hard times. Anyway, Jimmy is overjoyed by his job offer, and although he’ll be away for a year and his family will only receive $50 a month from the expedition, he knows they’ve got plenty of savings. Pollyanna feels terrible, and hides the failure of their bank from him until he leaves.
Then she and the children go to Boston because she’s lived there before. She finds them a couple of rooms in a boarding house, puts the kids in school, and starts looking for a job. She hasn’t got any work experience or qualifications, so she finds it difficult. Also, a lot of places tell her that they had to lay off a lot of longtime employees because of the hard times, and if they have any openings, they’re going to hire the old people back before looking for new ones. I really am impressed by this book. It’s a very different kind of book from Pollyanna, but in a good way. In fact, I’m looking at my old books arranged neatly on my new shelves, and I don’t see a single one that Pollyanna’s Door to Happiness compares badly with.
A couple of weeks into the job search, Pollyanna is invited to a dinner party given by her landlady. There she meets Rada Masters, a beautiful novelist who knows Jamie Carew, and Dr. Bennett, a well-known psychologist. Rada goes around the table asking everyone about their favorite games from childhood, so Pollyanna explains the Glad Game, which she sort of still plays sometimes. Also, she realizes that Miss Masters is in love with the doctor.
Miss Masters invites her over for tea the next day, and Dr. Bennett asks if he can join them. Afterwards, Dr. Bennett has a long talk with Pollyanna and offers her a job: he has some patients with very serious mental illnesses, but he also has a lot of patients who have smaller mental issues, or are just unhappy. He wants Pollyanna to see these people as a sort of cross between a friend and a therapist. She takes the job and moves into an apartment in Rada’s building so that she can receive the doctor’s patients there.
Rada is sort of one of Dr. Bennett’s patients — she grew up somewhere in the Middle East, and people stole stuff from her all the time, so the favorite childhood game that she told the dinner party about just revolved around hiding things. She’s got some serious trust issues, and Dr. Bennett’s advice to her is to make three close friends. Pollyanna is the first.
Then there’s Deborah Dangerfield, a teenager who is kind of paranoid — she thinks her parents don’t love her and don’t want her to do anything she enjoys. Pollyanna notices her resemblance to a famous dancer and gets her interested in ballet. Deborah ends up going to the same ballet school as Judy, and while Judy is really serious and has the potential to become a famous ballet dancer, Deborah falls in love with a Russian guy from a famous ballet company.
There’s also Mrs. Garden, who is convinced that she hates babies, but keeps unconsciously stealing baby clothes from department stores, and Mr. Bagley, who after his wife and son are killed in accidents in the same week, is terrified of any kind of transportation. The reasoning behind their problems is all sort of vaguely and sanitized-ly Freudian, but it’s also sensible, and Pollyanna has some pretty sharp things to say about people’s general attitudes towards mental illness.
Everything ends happily of course — Rada and the doctor get married, Pollyanna returns the baby that Mrs. Garden kidnapped, they finally get a message from Jimmy at the South Pole — but the important thing is that nobody shies away from admitting that people have problems. And unlike in the earlier books, they’re not all just bedridden invalids. Pollyanna’s Jewels was fun, but I’m already looking forward to rereading Pollyanna’s Door to Happiness sometime.
Oh, and it turned out that the third kid’s name was Ruth.