Posts Tagged ‘mrsmolesworth’

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Uncanny Tales

October 17, 2017

I’m a bad audience for scary stories, and I know it. First, I don’t usually buy into them, and second, the scarier I find them the less likely I am to enjoy them. Fortunately Mrs. Molesworth’s Uncanny Tales aren’t particularly uncanny.

The first of the stories, “The Shadow in the Moonlight,” was my favorite. It features a shadowy presence that travels around the walls of a room, and it is genuinely creepy, but not so creepy that it scared me. I did wonder at times if the family being haunted was so large because they needed more people to independently confirm the haunting, but if it was, I wasn’t bothered: I liked them. It’s easy to figure out where the ghost is coming from, but what it’s doing and how they get rid of it are clever and cool.

The only other proper ghost story in the book is astonishingly boring and pointless, and I didn’t care about the possible ghost and definite industrial espionage one, either. The others are…fine, I guess. I liked, in a lukewarm way, the one about a young man who breaks his engagement and refuses to tell anyone why, but mostly everything is just sadness and coincidences. The last story in the book appears in my notes only as “insufficiently creepy clock.”

Am I purposely going for the Molesworth books I think I’m less likely to enjoy? Well, yes.

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The Cuckoo Clock

October 16, 2017

The Cuckoo Clock is another Mrs. Molesworth, and my first experience with her more fanciful stories. I gather that this is one of her most famous books, but I’m not that into it.

The protagonist is Griselda, a young girl who has been sent by her family in India to live with two elderly aunts. The house is cool, and her aunts are kind, but it’s a cold and dreary winter and she has no one to play with. Then she starts talking to a cuckoo that lives in a cuckoo clock that belonged to her grandmother. The cuckoo is probably really alive — not just in a dream, or her imagination — and he takes her on a series of adventures to places that don’t exist, like a version of China populated by dolls. Griselda is a little inclined to grumble, and the cuckoo is condescending, but they do seem sort of fond of each other.

Honestly, in spite of all the things that happen to Griselda, it feels kind of mundane. She goes places and looks at stuff, but nothing really happens, and she doesn’t talk to anyone. Interaction may be why the real world bits are more fun than the imaginary stuff, even though not much happens in the real world, either.

It’s kind of weird, how I’ve immediately gone from avoiding Mrs. Molesworth to cutting her a lot of slack, but that seems to be what’s happening. I don’t really care about this book, but I didn’t not like it, and even when I don’t like her, I think she’s really good.

 

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My New Home

October 13, 2017

My second Mrs. Molesworth was My New Home, which was nice, but never really felt like it got started. The narrative conceit (a young girl telling the story of her own life) is good in theory, but in practice the entire book feels like exposition.

Helena Wingfield (she thinks her middle names are also important, but I do not) was orphaned at a very young age and lives with her grandmother. She doesn’t really interact with other kids, until a nice family nearby starts sending their kids over to learn French from Mrs. Wingfield. Which would be fun to read about, if Mrs. Molesworth wasn’t in full-on tell-don’t-show mode.

The first person narration isn’t the problem. First person usually makes things more immediate, not more distant. An excess of realism might be part of the problem: this could in fact be how a girl in her early teens would tell the story of her childhood, but that doesn’t make it a good way to tell a fictional child’s story. An excess of foreshadowing, plus immediately stopping when you reach the foreshadowed events, is definitely a problem. But you know what? I’m not mad at it. I just think Mrs. Molesworth was capable of writing a version of this book I would have enjoyed much more.

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The Third Miss St. Quentin

October 5, 2017

I’ve been avoiding Mary Louisa Molesworth’s books for years, for no reason I can explain, but sometimes I go looking for something Cinderella-y and this time her The Third Miss St. Quentin was the thing that I found. And I’m glad of that, because it’s really good.

When I go looking for Cinderella stories, it’s because I don’t have a better way to look for what I really want: stories about people who are treated badly for a while and then get to have lots of nice things. The Third Miss St. Quentin isn’t that at all. Instead, it’s sort of a riff on the plot of Cinderella, but with a completely different emotional arc. The keynote of the story is that the Cinderella character is actually treated really well by almost everyone, almost all of the time. Read the rest of this entry ?