Just David

August 19, 2007

Last week I was on an Eleanor Porter kick. I’d never realized how many books she wrote that weren’t, you know, Pollyanna. Her Wikipedia entry says she wrote mostly children’s lit, but I’m not sure how much I trust her Wikipedia entry, seeing as it calls the three Miss Billy books children’s lit (questionable) and Just David a novel for adults (untrue). I have no idea whether it’s right about the rest of her books, since those are the four I’ve just read.

Just David came first, and I think I’d have been able to tell that it was by the author of Pollyanna even if I hadn’t already known. Either that or I would have thought an unknown author was just copying Eleanor Porter.

Things David and Pollyanna have in common:

Their mothers died when they were babies.

They were raised by their fathers.

Their fathers died without really providing for them.

They are taken into the homes of grumpy older people.

They unconsciously cheer up the entire town they live in.

They bring together a pair of lovers who had quarreled years ago.

It becomes clear how much everyone in town loves them when they get sick and it is uncertain whether they will live.

I could probably come up with a few other similarities, but I think that’s plenty.

There are differences, too, although I suppose they could mostly be covered by replacing the Glad Game with the violin. David’s father is a famous violinist — this is stuff that’s revealed at the end of the book, but I don’t think it would be a surprise if it was revealed at the end of the first chapter — who, after his wife dies, took his son to live on a secluded mountaintop somewhere and brought him up knowing how to do nothing but play the violin — and that, of course, he does beautifully.

David’s father dies just as they’ve left the mountain to go somewhere — David doesn’t know where. He dies in a barn and David is taken in by its owners, a fairly dour old couple named Holly. They would prefer him to do chores instead of taking walks in the forest, but they can’t help enjoying themselves when he improvises on his violin.

And there’s no point describing the rest of the story because basically, it’s Pollyanna. And that’s my major criticism of Just David. I mean, it’s cute, but why write the same book twice?

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