Mining the Depths

I'll read almost anything and love what captures my imagination. Best of all is responding to books in the larger cultural sense, loving or loathsome. Literature should have a place in the wider world.

 

And I'm another GoodReads refugee. 

The New Moon with the Old

The New Moon With the Old - Dodie Smith While the story could seem stereotypical, I call it closer to satire.The New Moon with the Old does begin with a secretary (named Jane, even) hired by a charming, handsome widower, Rupert Carrington, in the city, who is sent to work and live at his country home with the servants and the precocious, attractive children. But the 'children' are all, at least in age, adults, or mostly so. Of the two family servants, yes, one actually is named Cook, but they are both kind, function rather as nannies within the household—they like, even approve of, Jane.Jane herself is in her “very late” thirties, and has been a secretary for years, fifteen in fact. Not the usual innocent creature of the gothic romance. She’s sturdy and practical, and frankly rather prudish. There’s the traditional long, winding drive up to the house. And then the father returns: by sneaking in the back gate, and confessing to Jane that he is in fact wanted by the police and is about to flee the country. He’s delightfully matter-of-fact about the whole thing. Jane is more than eager to believe him, and immediately offers to look after the family while he is gone—after having been there all of a week.See, she just really loves the atmosphere of the house. Or the atmosphere and especially the house?The devotedness is a hallmark of the gothic tradition, but Smith so emphasizes that Jane has only known the family a week, doesn’t have any particular affection for the older two ‘children,’ and harbors such deep love for her employer, that I can only read this as a gentle sort of parody. Because despite her affection for Mr. Carrington, she never actually acts or responds to him as a lover would—or anyone with genuine attraction, really.As for the children who are actually mostly adults, well, I guess you could say they do have various adventures of their own. But it’s not really about that. It’s about adults who have been so sheltered from the world for their entire lives, with little to no consideration of who they really are, that they still are mentally children. They’ve never grown up.Even throughout the prologue, Jane comments on the Carrington family’s lack of familial love. When Rupert commits his crime, he never bothered to have any backup for his family. The children hear about his dilemma—and their own—and are hardly concerned for their father’s danger, and at most find it exciting. There is no mourning or bewailing this new world; they immediately start wondering how they can make enough money to survive, and know perfectly well that they have no real world or marketable skills. That they have, in fact, been infantalized.Working backwards from the youngest to the oldest (because I'm pretty sure that's how the book does it) because that's where I felt the novel really got the most interesting:The youngest girl, nicknamed Merry, can act much more mature than she is--actually is and actress, and noted by her father as the child with the truest talent--but learns that her ability to be perceived as an adult does not make her one.Then Drew, the younger son, the wanna-be author who can't stop researching to actually write--finally reaches out to the real world, though he considers it research at first--and finds a little reality behind the fiction.The second oldest, Clare, "wants to live in a book" and decides to make it happen--sort of.And the oldest, Richard--the new 'man' of the family immediately takes up the mantle as expected of him--and realizes that perhaps it wasn't what the family actually needed, or what he wanted. His growth wasn't in following the sensible option, but in realizing that in taking it, he is avoiding the responsibility for his own life and calling. I think I can say he was my favorite.If you can find it, you might want to read it. Especially if you are willing to read it generously, and are familiar with the classics. Good luck!{reposted from my blog, with edits}

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