Betty Cavanna, il. Edward J. Smith
Along the flat, straight road to
18-year-old New Yorker Claire Farrell chases her winter boyfriend, actor Whit Bowden, south for the summer. He's appearing in a summer theatre near
Claire, a headstrong and somewhat bullying personality, isn't exactly appealing, but her struggles make her sympathetic. Her patrician old grandfather's opinion puts the reader firmly on her side.
"She's selfish," Claire's grandfather's heavy voice boomed. "Takes after me, takes after Gregory. The Farrells are all selfish. They want what they want when they want it. But it isn't becoming in a woman. She ought to be taught."
The other women in the book are, basically, women who have learned to appear unselfish. Grandmother, after a lifetime in
Claire's a very strong, real character, unlike most of the others in the book, who tend to serve only as tests for the heroine. Claire draws enormous strength from her surroundings - her smart convertible, her good clothes, her own physical beauty - and is deflated when deprived of any of them. She consciously carries her own story around with her - Sophisticated New Yorker - and is very unhappy when anything disturbs her sense of that story. She's very realistic, if not always very pleasant.
But to chug out the
As usual, Cavanna's sense of place is strong. She paints a vivid portrait of a southern summer before air-conditioning:
All over the house blinds were drawn against the heat, which nevertheless lay like a blanket over each and every room, smothering the house as it did the town.
And she evokes a sense of the old Colonial village at the heart of
Pulling the car off the road to a stretch of grass which bordered the worn brick sidewalk, Claire parked close to the gnarled paper mulberry which was one of her earliest recollections of
Apart from the gender issues and pre-central air era mentioned above, there is a black maid/cook given the standard servant treatment, and a fairly scary car accident in which it is all too obvious that this is an era before seat belts.
Claire realized that her head had hit the windshield with a thud, but for the first few instants she was too dazed to feel anything but relief that none of the three of them had been thrown completely out.