Patty’s Motor Car

August 21, 2014

There’s a reason I got stuck on Patty’s Motor Car when I was reviewing the Patty Fairfield books. A couple of reasons, I guess. And if you want to look at it that way, the reasons’ names are Philip Van Reypen and Christine Farley.

I’m a weirdo who spends a lot of time thinking about things like how Patty Fairfield’s suitors fit into the structure of the series, and I think there’s a turning point here, a two-book transition between between the first seven books of the series and the last eight. Everything through Patty’s Pleasure Trip is about Patty the kid. Then, in Patty’s Success, Wells pushes Patty into the real world by making her deal with the job market. Then she introduces Christine and Phil, apparently for the purpose of splitting up Patty and Mr. Hepworth. This book brings Christine and Phil closer–and for the record, I don’t actually dislike Christine, just what she represents–and moves Patty further into the world by giving her mobility, in the form of an electric car.

I wonder a lot whether Wells seriously considered Phil as a possible endgame suitor for Patty. I find him so consistently awful, but I can’t find any sign that Wells agrees, unless writing him as a reckless, selfish manipulator who thinks he can get away with anything because he always has before counts.

Um, so, yeah. I hate Phil Van Reypen so much. You can take that as a given, although I have no doubt I’ll manage to remind you. Anyway, the next book changes the trajectory of the series a little, but I find it difficult to read these two books that push Patty towards Phil, because he is the worst. I started keeping a journal again shortly before I started rereading this book and now it’s full of “WORST”s in relation to Phil. In fact, if you looked at my journal, you’d think the whole book was instances of Phil being awful alternating with wordless conversations between Patty and Mr. Hepworth. And it is, kind of, but some other stuff happens, too.

So, this car company holds a contest: they put out a book of puzzles and riddles and things, and the person who sends in the most complete and correct set of answers by the deadline wins an electric car. Patty, with a bit of help from Kenneth Harper, a lot of help from Phil, and a bit of important last minute help from Mr. Hepworth, submits a set of answers and–you noticed the title, right?–wins the car.

The Fairfields move to the Jersey shore for the summer, and Patty gets to drive her car around a bunch, and we’re introduced to Mona Galbraith, who Wells never actually describes as nouveau riche. Instead Wells calls her “pushing,” and says her house and her clothes are unnecessarily fancy, but it’s cool, we all know what she means.

But yeah, other than that it’s all Phil getting Patty into scrapes, which he sometimes also gets hor out of, and also there’s a delightfully uncomfortable conversation between Patty and Christine where Christine tries to get Patty to acknowledge that Mr. Hepworth is in love with her and Patty says some stuff that’s one step removed from repeating “I’m not having this conversation,” over and over again. It’s pretty great.

Anyway, I hate Phil Van Reypen, but the rest of this book is pretty fun.


  1. I wonder if girls of the era thought Phil was actually pretty great, because after all, he… uh… was… hmm.

    Yeah, not coming up with anything. Although he wasn’t quite as awful as the female relative (was it his mom or his aunt? maybe his grandmother?) who almost guilted Patty into marrying him?

    • Based on, uh, future behavior of other characters, I worry that his controlling behavior is supposed to be attractive. My current theory is that in Wells’ eyes, the problem with Phil is that, since they’re not engaged, he doesn’t have the right to behave that way. But if they were, he would.

  2. How terrible is it that now I have to start the Patty Fairfield series just to see how awful Phil is?

    Please tell me at least that the whole series is on the kindle unlike Betty Gordon & Ruth Fielding.

    • Not terrible at all! Most of it is great. And then it takes, like, eight books to get to Phil.

      The whole series isn’t available on kindle, but you can see which ones are and aren’t online here. I haven’t updated that page in a while, actually. I’ll go through to see if anything additional is available.

      • FYI…#16 Patty-Bride (1918) is now available at PG. AND FULL OF OMG WOULD SOMEBODY JUST SOCK PHIL IN THE BEEZER.

        • I saw that! And also this might be the best blog comment I’ve ever received.

  3. Urgh, I do so agree. From the moment he first appeared I loathed Phil van Reypen. He is the most obnoxious toad ever.

    • It’s so nice to hear that other people hate him. I’ve worried for years that it was just me.

  4. I just read my first Patty (Patty’s SocialSeason) and I couldn’t agree more about Phil. If you have read this title, remember when they were stranded over night during a snow storm? I think Philip caused them leaving late because he knew Bill was back at Adele’s house waiting for Patty.

    • I don’t remember whether he could have known about Bill–or if he even knows at that point that Bill is his rival. But he definitely wasn’t sorry to have Patty all to himself for all that time.

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