Six Girls Growing OlderMarch 23, 2015
Six Girls Growing Older is a funny one. I’m not entirely sure how a feel about it, especially in relation to Six Girls and the Tea Room. But having had a few days to let it process, I think it’s largely an issue of structure. The last book used the tea room as a framework to hang the story on, but also the Scollards knew when they opened it that it was only going to last until the Spring, when it was time to go back to Pennsylvania, giving the book a clear time-frame, too. Six Girls Growing Older, on the other hand, is as transitional as the name implies. Laura’s on her way to Germany. Margery is getting married. Bob is really too old to get a proper summer vacation. The Scollard fortunes change, too and Aunt Keren adopts Happie legally and the rest of the family practically.
The book splits into two rough halves. The first half is set on The Ark, Gretta’s Pennsylvania farm, and the big events are Margery’s wedding and a flood that results in Gretta adopting a toddler. Other things loom as large, though — the introduction of the “Pointers” (four boys who each have “North,” “South,” “East” or “West” in their names), as atmospheric a storm scene as I’ve read in ages, pranks. It feels pretty aimless, especially after Six Girls and the Tea Room‘s wall-to-wall carpeting of plot. I wondered, as I read, whether this series was turning into one of those where the characters have a series of parties and entertainments and nothing else happens.
Then comes the second half, in which the reduced family — Aunt Keren, Mrs. Scollard, Happie and Bob and the little girls — return to the city, and their introduction to the lap of luxury is complicated by a serious health crisis for Aunt Keren. It gets pretty heavy, actually, and makes the book feel unbalanced. I think if you mixed up the summery good times and the autumnal less-good times, the book would have a similar feel to the previous one, but I guess mixing up entertainments and hospital visits would be a little insensitive.
Anyway, basically I liked it. All the individual bits were good, it’s just that the book as a whole is much easier to find fault with. The family relationships are just as good, the slowly developing romances interesting, Happie’s discomfort with growing up as good as it’s been…but this might be where the series starts to plod.