Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Second Look For Avis (1961)

A Second Look For Avis

Lee Priestley, il. Don Lambo (cover)

1961, Julian Messner, Inc.

Every year her own position worsened, Avis thought. Her mother and sister took her more and more for granted as the provider, resented more and more her dictates as to spending. The problems of plugging holes in the family financial dike got little help from Lucie and Stella. Their feeling about making ends meet was that if one ignored the annoying gap some miracle might bridge it.

The sleepy Louisiana town of Valcourville is beautiful to outsiders, an old place lost in time. But to several members of the Barton family, ownership of one of the town's gracious homes has been nothing but a trap. 22-year-old Avis Barton is the latest victim.

When her father (a frustrated poet who planned for her to live the dream he never achieved) died, she put her own dreams on hold to keep her family together. Her mother Lucie is an impractical southern belle who resents any responsibility, and her younger sister Stella has been raised in her likeness. Avis has managed to continue her college studies nearby, but the implication is that she's only doing so to earn more money as a teacher in the local school system. But after a few years of sacrifice, Avis is fed up. She is starting to see only too clearly how her mother sees the future; Stella married off, and Lucie merrily continuing her spendthrift ways supported by her dutiful eldest daughter who, she'll confide to friends, was never very interested in marriage.

The return of a childhood admirer, Paul Guidry, and a newcomer, Tracy Warren, set up an interesting situation with Avis and her flirtatious little sister. But the real problem Avis faces is how to deal with the financial and power situation in her family. Her sister and mother are being selfish, she realizes, but her own 'noble sacrifice' is rooted partly in disdain for them. Avis, her daddy's girl, places tremendous value in brains and social class, which she can't quite overcome even when she desperately wants to, as when she visits Paul's Cajun family, and she tends to undervalue other people's strengths.

An interesting book where the romance is nearly incidental to the heroine's resolution of her own personal problems. The atmosphere is nice, with details that convey a sense of living in an old southern town in a house that's crumbling genteely around your ears, but doesn't become a cartoon.

Bending over the marble hollow of the basin in the bathroom, Avis squeezed lather through her hair. Winding the wet brown length at the back of her head, she straightened with a care for the graceful swan faucets. They could deal a numbing blow. She asked herself how the Valcour sisters had managed their famous tresses in this antique skull-cracker; but then, it would be easy with body servants to soap and lave with pitchers of rain water.

Interesting touches include the presence of a Syrian family in town.

Other books


The Sound Of Always

Rocket To The Stars

Now For Nola

Believe In Spring (1964)


Rocket Mouse

Because Of Rainbows

A Teacher For Tibby

About the Author

Born in Kansas, she was a teacher.

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