Patty’s Social Season

August 25, 2014

The stretch of the series between Patty’s Social Season and, I guess, Patty-Blossom, tends to run together. Lunches and evening parties alternate with house parties and Phil Van Reypen getting Patty into scrapes and flying visits from Bill Farnsworth. This one starts with Patty’s official debut — she’s an adult now, not that you would know the difference — encompasses Mr. Hepworth’s engagement to Christine Farley and a Christmas house party with the Kenerleys, and winds up with Christine and Mr. Hepworth’s wedding. I think Wells felt she had to dispose of Mr. Hepworth quickly.

When I first read the books in which Mr. Hepworth was paired off with someone who wasn’t, you know, Patty, I was pretty upset. But that was when I was in college, and since then I’ve grown to appreciate the fact that the adult who falls in love with a child doesn’t end up with her, as he would in kind of an upsettingly large number of other books. That said, I still have issues with how Wells gets rid of Gilbert Hepworth. Because it’s like she also came around to the idea that they shouldn’t get married late in the game, only now she wants to pretend that she never meant Patty and Mr. Hepworth to be a thing, and I don’t think that’s true.

I’m not saying Patty’s in love with him, ever, just that we’re coming off a string of books in which he understands her better than anyone else, in which she trusts him more than anyone else, and in which it’s pretty clearly demonstrated that the only reason she doesn’t know he’s in love with her is that she’s chosen not to know. And those things are all fine, and possible to move on from, but it feels a little bit weird when you don’t even acknowledge them. It’s like Wells doesn’t want to admit there was ever a possibility of Patty falling in love with him, and…I don’t know, I just really think she must have.  Anyway, Wells tries to get through this somewhat awkward situation by not having Patty and Mr. Hepworth exchange more than a few words once he’s engaged, and it’s not convincing. Or it’s afraid to try to be convincing, maybe.

The Mr. Hepworth parts of the book are pretty minor, but, well. I spend a lot of time thinking about this.

The other thread that runs through the book is Mona Galbraith’s involvement with an adventurer she doesn’t particularly want to be rescued from. Also Phil proposes for the first time–for the first dozen times, probably, very few of them in situations where Patty is able to walk away from the conversation if she wants to. (He is, as ever, the worst.) Also, Patty, Elise, Mona and Clementine Morse (Clementine Morse!) start a club to entertain working people on Saturday afternoons, and it’s pretty cute.

The entire book is cute, really, aside from Philip. And it’s pretty routine, but that’s a nice thing. Nothing ever really happens in Patty Fairfield books, and I’ve never been sure whether my love of them is because or in spite of that. But I’m very sure that I love them.


  1. (I’m re-reading the Pattys right now, Melody, thanks to these reviews!)

    The Patty books, as many other books from this era, are pretty awful to anyone who isn’t, well, white and one of the Right Kind of People.

    But I felt like the club the girls set up was actually not quite so awful as it could’ve been. The working women they take out are (IIRC) actually generally well-drawn, without condescension.

    • I think Carolyn Wells does okay, considering. There are some gross stereotypes (Emancipation Proclamation Jackson, anyone?) but she also makes a point of having Patty treat people beneath her on the social ladder AS people, so she sort of has to do the same herself. And yeah, the Happy Saturdays club could be a lot worse. I really enjoy Mrs. Greene, and would like to see more of her. The thing with Mona giving her those furs makes me uncomfortable, though. I mean, I guess it’s the same thing as the whole lunch, on a larger scale, but Mona is so rich that she won’t miss those furs at all, and no one’s acknowledging that.

  2. Yeah, Emancipation Proclamation Jackson, and the terrible, awful accent (although the Little Colonel books are still 100% worse). And Pansy Potts– she seemed more like she should’ve been in her own book.

    And good god, the whole Irish thing that pops up over and over again.

    • Yeah, Wells distributes her gross stereotypes pretty evenly, I guess. I’ve also been finding the servants increasingly irritating–they’re a bit too pleased to be servants: “Lisette, of course, was a great admirer of pretty Patty, and was only too glad to be of assistance to her linguistically or any other way.”

      • A couple of months ago, I read a few books about servants during (roughly) this era– Lethbridge’s “Servants”, Light’s “Mrs Woolf and the Servants”, and Margaret Powell’s “Below Stairs”.

        Some really really fascinating stories… and all very unsettling / upsetting commentaries on class.

        • I’ll have to keep an eye out for those–it would be nice to have that background when reading excessively optimistic portrayals of relationships with servants.

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