Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Clay Fingers
Adele DeLeeuw
1948, The Macmillan Company

Laura Carpenter's fall down a flight of stairs fractures a vertebra, and puts her in a cast all summer. Worst of all, her doctor tells her she should take a year out of college to give her back a chance to heal completely. The enthusiastic student athlete - a crack member of the tennis, basketball and hockey teams - is crestfallen. Her first weeks at home that autumn are filled with melancholy as she imagines the warm collegiate activities going on at Harlow without her - the football games, the dorm parties, the friendship and fun. At loose ends, she aimlessly takes up the sculpting tools a family friend had given her months earlier. Despite her initial clumsiness and previous lack of interest in art, Laura finds her interest engaged for the first time in a long time.

A sympathetic but brisk look at a girl's first encounter with serious misfortune, and how she handles it and how it enables her to recognize misfortune in others. Well-written, with enough description to evoke a feeling of place and strong characters. Engaging plot, with Laura's naturally industrious and competitive nature being roused by her new passion into getting into teaching pottery classes and selling her work.

A bit dated in places. A plot point concerning poverty and substandard housing is a period piece, as is the look and sound of the poor characters - an Italian girl, two micks and a black family written to sound unnervingly hokey. The book was written shortly after World War II, and it's fairly hard to miss; a major plot point deals with recent war veterans, and Laura's love interest is a young vet.

Laura's love interest, Drew, is one of the least overbearing male characters in all the similar books of this era I've read so far - he does some of the usual guidance/mentor things that can be irksome, but he's not a jerk. And his calm confidence seems more natural as a war veteran talking to a girl about 7 years younger. And he's got an awwwww background as an orphan!

Other books by the author
A Place For Herself
Year Of Promise
Career For Jennifer
Gay Design
Linda Marsh
Doctor Ellen
With A High Heart
Future For Sale
Title To Happiness

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