May 14, 2008

Peggy’s book, which is just called Peggy, is the best in the series so far, and not just because I’m a sucker for a good school story. Peggy was the kind and strong but sort of stupid one in Three Margarets, but she really comes into her own here, in her first year at boarding school.

She’s a few days late, so she ends up on the corridor where the Juniors live. They are called “Jews” for short, so the corridor is “Judea.” Likewise with the Seniors — “Seas” — and their corridor — “The Mediterranean”. Anyway, because of where she lives, Peggy ends up becoming friends with a lot of the Juniors, like Bertha Houghton and Gertrude Merryweather (Gerald’s younger sister), AKA the Fluffy and the Snowy Owl; Viola, AKA Vanity (but not her roommate, Vivia, or Vexation of Spirit) who lives across the hall from her; and Grace Wolfe, variously known as the Goat, the Scapegoat, and the Lone Wolf. Viola calls Peggy Veezy-Vee; Grace, and eventually the Owls, call her the Innocent. Yeah, they go a little over the top with the nicknames sometimes. Also, I love seeing how names have changed over the hundred or so years since this book was written — the two most popular girls in the school are named Gertrude and Bertha.

Peggy proves herself capable of standing up to bullies, chasing burglars, and climbing all the way to the top of the rope hanging from the Gymnasium ceiling, and befriends Lobelia Parkins, a shy and unattractive freshman. She proves a good influence on Grace, who has heretofore been the ringleader of The Gang and the cause of most of the rule-breaking in the school. Peggy also puts a stop to people coming through her room to climb out the fire escape — a custom its previous tenant started, and which has caused the room to be called “Broadway.” Unfortunately, this means Grace, who, although she has abandoned The Gang, still causes trouble on her own, sneaks out through timid Lobelia Parkins’ room.

Grace ends up nearly causing Lobelia’s death, but she nurses her back to health and reforms, becoming the third Owl (the Horned). And Grace is pretty cool, I guess, but Peggy is cooler. She really is the heroine of this story, and although she’s not perfect or anything — and who would want her to be? — she’s strong and capable, even when she doubts herself. Peggy has definitely overtaken Margaret as my favorite Margaret Montfort, and I don’t think the coming books are going to change that.


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