Tuesday, January 04, 2011

What I read over my Christmas Vacation

I wanted to rave about this book. I wanted it to be my "Must read book" of the year. These are "my" girls--I grew up in an almost identical midwest college town, in the same income bracket and graduated from high school one year before these girls. Like President Obama, we are "boomers" but only barely. In the end I was left thinking--this is nothing. My grandmother, who died at 94 and never owned a computer, could remember life with no telephone or car, kept up with her school mates till death. When she "retired" in her 70's and moved back to her hometown, she and "the girls" picked up where they'd left off. Only they hadn't left off. They used this antique form of communication--LETTERS. My grandmother's from Brazil in the late 40s often took months to arrive. Sometimes they did "round robin" letters. They sent snapshots of their children, then their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Unlike the "S-sisters" of Ames the B-girls [as I'll call my Grandmother and her friends] were not all of the same socio-economic class and all did not necessarily live happily ever after. But, they stayed married, raised their kids on whatever their husband's gave them and smiled. They got thru "the change" without therapy or a book club. Some wrote their first ever checks and learned to manage a business on the death of the husband. All were resilient women--well "balanced" in today's view. Little did they know they were ahead of the curve in keeping and maintaining close female friendships after marriage.

The Girls From Ames, tries to sound scholarly--citing studys [many from Australia] to back up the often pretentious pontificating offered by the overly impressed author. It wasn't hard growing up middle class in the American midwest in the 60s and 70s. Our parents did not become hippies, few divorced and all survived double-digit mortgage rates, Watergate and the rest. It's not surprising then that Angela, Karen, and the rest of the Ames girls went on to have middle or upper-middle class marriages and the predictable escalation in life style that that inspires. All who chose to were able to stay at home and raise their kids. More interesting, by far, would be to look at the "other" Ames high girls--those who weren't in their orbit.

While I had moments of screaming "Oh barf!" it was at the author and his overly serious take on his subject. Really, detasseling corn, underage drinking and boys behaving badly are pretty normal. None of these girls went on to have an original thought--nor were they brought up to. They, for the most part, upper class housewives with enough time and money on their hands to travel to annual reunions, weddings, and funerals. That's about it. I could say more but that would spoil the "Very Special Moment" that are as predictable as the braces on their kids' teeth. Still, I'd give it 3 stars out of 5--I did finish it and did reflect on it positively on occasion. I just felt the author needed to get a life for himself.

"Debo," Duchess of Devonshire is the youngest of the famed Mitford sisters. One of the most famous alum of Charlotte Mason's PNEU Schools, Debo had a sister who stalked Hitler, another who married Britian's leading facist, another sister who was a communist and wrote a shocking expose on the death industry in the US. And that was only her birth family! She married Andrew Cavendish during World War II and, by marriage, had Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy [sister of JFK] for her sister-in-law. Debo is fabulously literate and writes a very readable account of her life [OK--honesty time--you can skip the Irish chapter]. Her life was way less predictable and far more interesting than that of the Ames girls. Not only because Chatsworth is one of the great houses of the world or that the glamorous JFK [whom she first thought a little "dull"] was in and out of her life, not only because the Queen, Prince Phillip and the kids visited or that Prince Charles is a devoted friend of hers. She, like the rest of her family, is simply INTERESTING in all that she does. Wait for Me, by the Duchess of Devonshire.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Interesting ... yes, on the surface "ames" sounds good; bummer that it didn't live up to its billing. The duchess book does sound fascinating. I'm getting my "royal radar" in gear with the upcoming wedding :)