Four Girls and a Compact

August 29, 2009

Four Girls and a Compact is short and predictable, but not in a bad way. Four girls — Loraine, Laura Ann, Billy, and T.O. — are four working girls who share an apartment they call the “B-Hive” because all of their last names begin with B. Loraine is a teacher and an aspiring writer, Laura Ann is an artist whose job has something to do with photography, Billy teaches music, and T.O., the “Talentless One,” sells handkerchiefs in a department store.

All four are tired and overworked, and they decide to go spend the summer in the country. They’re determined to be completely selfish while on vacation, and they sign a “Wicked Compact,” which states that if any of them do anything unselfish during their trip, they will be evicted from the B-Hive.

They draw straws, and T.O. is selected to go find them a place to stay. She takes the train to the nicest sounding place on the cheapest line — Placid Pond — and promptly sprains her ankle. She is taken in by an old lady named Emmeline Camp, who lives in a green house with her imaginary daughter, Amelia. (She has a son, but she always wanted a daughter.) She says T.O. and her friends can stay in her house while she visits either her son or her brother — I don’t remember which and I don’t think Annie Hamilton Donnell does either.

So, the girls come and stay, and of course each of them soon becomes involved in helping someone. First it’s Billy, who helps an old Civil War veteran learn to play “Marching Through Georgia” on an old organ. Then Loraine starts tutoring Sam Cotten, a local boy who feels like he’s in disgrace because he failed his exams. Laura Ann paints a picture of Amelia for their absent hostess.

By the time they’re ready to go home, the only one who hasn’t done something altruistic is T.O., who is always the odd one out anyway. The others wish they could extend the vacation, but T.O. was born and raised in the city, and misses the noise and the crowds. But she’s also been corresponding with Emmeline Camp, and knows that Emmeline has broken her hip, so without telling the other girls that she’s going to, she stays behind to take care of her, outdoing them all.

The whole thing is kind of obvious, and there’s not a lot in the way of character development, but what there is is pretty good. Nothing special, but kind of relaxing?


  1. Where did you find the book? It sounds funny.

    • Well, I kind of know what sort of titles books I like tend to have, so I did a title search on Project Gutenberg for “girls”. (I feel like there are a lot of searches that are safe on PG, but not on the rest of the internet.)

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