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 Post subject: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 19 May 2018, 09:49 
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The third of the La Rochelle books, published in 1924, changes location and central characters, but ties into the previous books in the last part of the story. This one is a pure family story, following the three Temple sisters as they move to Guernsey following their father's sudden death, where they experience goats, curses, fire, attempted murder, scarlet fever and romance.

The book opens with the three Temple girls, daughters of Captain Temple. Elizabeth and Anne, 24 and 19, are daughters of his first wife, an Italian woman. Their mother died of pleurisy when they were young, and the girls taken in by a young, unmarried aunt. Five years later, she married, and Captain Temple remarried soley to obtain child-care (telling his second wife this when proposing). She agreed, and they had a child, Janie, now 15. A few years later, she died in a carriage crash, with her dying words recommending sending the girls to a private school, where they stayed until Elizabeth was eighteen. The school closed, and once again at a loss, Captain Temple followed a fellow officer's advice, sending them to stay with the latter's widowed mother. Five years later, Captain Temple retired, and was reunited with his offspring. Soon afterwards, he died of heart disease, leaving the girls with no savings, no family, no job skills, an income of eighty pounds a year, and a survivor's pension for Janie, which will end in a year.

Elizabeth and Anne are stunningly beautiful, refined young women, graceful and artistically accomplished, with excellent taste, but are lacking in marketable skills, and are not suited for teaching. The younger Janie is rather plain, musically talented, clever and has a vivid, often impish personality. She's spent most of her life in France, and speaks with an accent.

The two older girls decide to move to Guernsey, where the cost of living is lower. They will teach Janie at home, while trying to make a living with artistic paintings (Anne) and writing (Elizabeth). They leave behind their father's old servant, as they can't afford to employ him. With the help of their old nurse, Javotte, and the family lawyer, they rent a small house, La Rochelle, pack up their posessions, and head off.

The ferry ride to Guernsey is eventful, as Janie is horribly seasick, and her sisters worry she will die of it. She recovers, however. They settle in to their new home, dealing with an invading goat and curious neighbours, (one of whom rescues them from the goat). They hire one of the neighbour girls to help with the heavy work. Janie makes friends with Melie Lihou, an acceptably ladylike neighbour girl.

Anne and Elizabeth are visited by an unusual young girl, who introduces her self as "Miss Ozanne". Pauline, or Polly, is a very self-posessed child, with a prim and precise way of speaking and old-fashioned dress. She turns out to be living in Guernsey with her older half-brother/guardian Paul, a young lawyer. She has run off from her brother, unrepentantly, due to boredom and the fact that her brother is annoyed because she's chased away yet another governess. Anne extracts her address, and phones her frantic brother. Paul is grateful for their help, and very taken with Elizabeth. He's at his wits' end with his young sister, and asks for advice. Anne and Elizabeth discuss things later, and decide to offer to tutor Pauline at home, along with Janie.

Later, the older sisters are relaxing at home when they are interrupted again, this time by a young doctor, Peter Chester, who is looking for their next door neighbours, the de Garis family. He had been called for an ill baby, but is thrown out by the mother, who believes the child has been cursed. Peter comes back, and vents to the sisters. He is visiting Guernsey as a substitute for the local doctor.

Later, Janie has an encounter with the de Garis family. She and Heloise, one of the daughters, sneak in to spy on the White Witch, an old woman called in to undo the curse on the baby. The woman discovers Janie, however, and badly frightens her with dire pronouncements. Anne encounters Peter Cheter on a walk, and tells him about the incident. They discover that Dr Chester knew Captain Temple when they were in the navy. He tries to see the baby, but is rebuffed, and checks on Janie. Peter de Garis comes over to apologize for his mother's behaviour.

Janie and Elizabeth have a discussion about various Guernsey superstitions, which Janie tends to believe in. Anne arrives home in a rush, chased by the White Witch and Mrs de Garis, who blame the sisters for the death of the baby, and are urging the neighbours to burn La Rochelle. Peter de Garis and Peter Chester intervene. Anne then relates a spooky story about seeing mysterious flames in the harbour.

The next day, Paul and Pauline come for tea, and the Temple girls make their offer of tutoring, to Paul's relief. They discuss the local superstitions further; Paul is from Guernsey, and says that there are strange things that happen and can't be explained any other way. They also realize that the girls' old guardian was Paul's father's cousin's widow, and Paul was good friends with her son. The two families have a pleasant afternoon.

Later, Janie is in a bad mood, due to the weather and knitting. Melie comes over to visit, and Janie's mood improves and she apologizes. Janie heads into town with Melie, and visits Pauline, who is full of excitement. Pauline proudly announces that she's written a play, and is going to be a playwright. The play, "Loved and Lost" is reproduced in its entirety. Meanwhile, Paul and Elizabeth are spending the afternoon together. They run into young Julian Lucy, a local schoolboy staying in the area with his father and invalid mother. Paul asks Elizabeth for decorating advice, which turns into a proposal. She cares for him, but can't bear to leave her sisters, and turns him down.

Later, Anne is working on an eerie painting, and the younger girls are spooked by it. Paul is out of town, and Pauline is staying with the Temples. There is scarlet fever in the town, and Melie Lihou is down with it, as are several of the de Garis children. Pauline wants to make her will, but it is Janie who first comes down with the fever. Pauline has a light case, but Janie is seriously ill. Dr Chester is a great help, and the girls' old nurse, Javotte, arrives to help. They have a bad time with Janie. She recovers, with a long recuperation, but one of the de Garis children dies.

Anne gets good news, a small book of Guernsey legends she has written has been accepted by a London publisher. Elizabeth's painting is being displayed. And Pauline proudly announces that she's mailed her play off to a famous actor, for immediate production. Two days later, Anne is worrying about money on a walk when she runs into Julian Lucy, then Mr Lihou. In a magazine at the library she sees a positive review of her painting, to her delight, and then meets Peter Chester, who takes the opportunity to propose. She turns him down for the same reason Elizabeth turned down Paul - not leaving her sisters. He, however, is well aware of Paul's feelings, and gets Anne to agree to be engaged once the other couple does.

Meanwhile, Janie and Pauline have made a new friend, Mr Atherton, who was in town to book a bungalow for the summer holidays. Peter is visiting the White Witch, who is ill. Later, Anne is painting while the other girls are in town, and Peter comes by to visit, and talks about his family. He stops by again, when Anne is panicking because the others haven't returned home; he sensibly suggests calling Paul, and it turns out that a message went astray and they are fine.

Pauline and Janie have a conversation about Elizabeth and Paul. Pauline is worried that Elizabeth has turned Paul down because of her. They are interrupted by the arrival of the Athertons; they continue their picnic with Anne and Eliabeth, go swimming, and end up rescuing Jose Atherton when she falls in. The two families make friends, and we are re-introduced to the Athertons.

The summer continues with a firm friendship with the Athertons, Temples, Peter Chester and the Ozannes. The gang heads to the summer Regatta in town. They enjoy the various activities, but are confronted by the White Witch, who makes some more dire pronouncements. That night, they wake up to a fire on the cliffs, very dangerous because of the dry weather. The Athertons are in danger, as are the Lucys. The Lucys are rescued, but Jose is trapped in the burning house. Elizabeth goes in to save her, but is attacked by the White Witch. She manages to break free. It starts to rain, putting out the fire, but the White Witch and Peter de Garis are killed. It is likely the White Witch set the fire to hurt the Temples by killing their friends.

Pauline is still troubled about Paul and Elizabeth. She quizzes Melie Lihou about the latter's cousin's engagement, and is reprimanded by Rosamund for being vulgar. She then runs off to buy a love potion from another White Witch and returns in tears; when the others find out, it is revealed that both couples are actually engaged.

The summer ends with a double wedding. Janie and Pauline will stay with friends of the family in Brittany, giving the new couples some time alone after the marriage.

Other Notes: Rosamund is off to Somerville, Con is interested in black and white drawing, Cesca is taking Froebel, and Jill Trevennor is at London University.

------

This is the book that introduces the Lucy/Chester/Ozanne clan; what do you think of their first appearance and history? The Temples are in some ways an earlier draft of the Bettany siblings, with older siblings caring for a younger sister, dire financial situations and the need to support themselves, and Janie as a proto-Joey; what you think think of the Temple girls and their approach to their situation, compared to Madge? There's a lot of mysticism (curses, the "Friday Folk", mysterious happenings) and local lore in this book, compared to other EBD books; do you like it?

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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 19 May 2018, 18:25 
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Yes, there's a lot to summarise in this one, too, isn't there? Thank you, jennifer!

I do like Janie - as we're meant to, of course - but always feel that Elizabeth (and to a lesser extent Anne) is a bit unreal. Pauline is another interesting character, but I'm not sure she foreshadows anyone - yes, you could argue that she's a budding writer like Jo, but I don't feel that Jo is based on her at all. In fact I can't think of any CS character who plays the same kind of role or has the same combination of confidence, creativity and old for her age/ old fashioned air.

As for the supernatural element, I think it fits quite well here, and enjoy reading about it, but think it wouldn't do for the CS, which is much more modern in feel. I've always been intrigued by the painting of Herodias dancing to bring the storm, and can picture it very clearly, but was puzzled by the fact that I couldn't find any references to these héroziâgues until I searched on all the elements separately, and found that here we have another EBDism - they're hérogiâzes. Let's see if this link here works in case anyone else is interested...


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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 19 May 2018, 18:54 
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Pauline seems like an odd mix of Joey (writer, charisma) and Mary-Lou (confidence, approach to adults, old fashioned air - at least when we first meet her). I rather like her, and I love this book.

Reading the summary (thanks, Jennifer) does rather make it clear how bonkers Captain Temple’s appraoch to parenthood is. I have examples on my family tree of ancestors who have obviously married to give their small children another mother, but Capt Temple has an absolute succession of “not being a parent, farm them out on someone else” decisions. Obviously, he’s a sailor, that’s how he earns a living, but even so, I think his lack of sensible planning for his daughters and their future is abit daft.

I also think of Anne and Elizabeth as slightly unreal. I wonder how much of that was meant by EBD (I mean, we know by this book that she can handle large casts, and give each of them a character, so it seems unlikely this is an accident) and how much of it is just the contrast of their passivity and slight feebleness against Janie’s much more dynamic personality?


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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 19 May 2018, 19:58 
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I want to smack Captain Temple when he tells his second wife-to-be that he'll never love her. OK, marks for honesty - better than Mr Cochrane - but even so. I like Paul Ozanne much better! I like Pauline too, and wish we'd seen more of her.

We hear later that Madge and Elizabeth have become friends, and I'd like to have seen more about that, but what a contrast between Madge's gumption in setting up her own business, and Anne and Elizabeth living in genteel poverty and apparently never even considering sending Janie to, say, secretarial college. Sylvia in Ballet Shoes is the same: it never occurs to her to get a job. It's typical enough of the times, but it doesn't half show how good a character Madge is.

It feels as if this book is set years before the early CS books. The folklore and the secret romances feel quite Victorian-Gothic.

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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 19 May 2018, 22:05 
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I get what you mean about Madge setting up a school compared to Elizabeth and Anne but realistically what could they have done with no money?
Would Madge have been able to start the school without the capital from selling their house? The Temples didn't even have that.
A secretarial college would have cost money.

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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 19 May 2018, 22:22 
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I suppose not, but they could have given language lessons, or piano lessons like Margot Venables did, or something - although a quiet area of Guernsey probably wasn't the best place for finding potential pupils. And they were both in their 20s when their father died - why hadn't it occurred to any of them to plan for the future? What would have happened if they hadn't all managed to bag rich husbands :D ?

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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 20 May 2018, 07:06 
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I couldn't get access to the Google book linked by Noreen (probably geoblocked), but Guernsey Folk-Lore, which is mentioned in the GGBP edition has a mention of Herodias here (from Project Gutenberg). I prepared this text for Project Gutenberg after reading about it from Maids.
jennifer wrote:
Anne gets good news, a small book of Guernsey legends she has written has been accepted by a London publisher. Elizabeth's painting is being displayed.

This is the other way around - Elizabeth's book is published and Anne's painting is displayed.


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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 20 May 2018, 11:07 
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bythebrook wrote:
I couldn't get access to the Google book linked by Noreen (probably geoblocked), but Guernsey Folk-Lore, which is mentioned in the GGBP edition has a mention of Herodias here (from Project Gutenberg). I prepared this text for Project Gutenberg after reading about it from Maids.
Ah, sorry about that, bythebrook, and thanks for posting an alternative. The link was to Jersey Folklore and Superstitions Vol 1 by G J C Bois, which despite its title seems to talk extensively about Guernsey too. Can't copy and paste from it, unfortunately.


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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 20 May 2018, 13:31 
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Anne and Elizabeth strike me as being well-bred young ladies from a previous era, while Madge is a much more modern young woman. The former are graceful, accomplished young women, but it's like the idea of going out and getting a job to pay the bills is completely foreign to them - their type of person just doesn't do that! They don't even consider getting Janie some training with what there is of her survivor's pension. And they're very pure about their artistic pursuits too - only the best art will do, no catering to the tourist crowd, or writing potboilers. It's very convenient that they happened to both meet handsome, well to do young men who immediately fell in love with them, but without that, their plan didn't really have much future.

I suppose they could have used Janie's pension to pay for fees at a business or trade school, while Anne and Elizabeth supplemented their 80 pounds a year with teaching piano or giving private language lessons, or working as a non-live-in governess, and maybe selling fine needlework, or taking in mending. Then, once Janie is out earning they could pool resources and try to get the older girls some training or certification to increase their earning power.

I quite like Janie and Polly. Pauline is probably my favourite of the "old fashioned" EBD girls, with her resilience and calm lack of concern regarding how others view her mannerisms.

Captain Temple leaving his daughters to be raised by others makes a fair amount of sense in the society of those days - he had a job that required travel, and he did manage to leave the girls in reasonable hands. My great-grandfather, in the same era, advertised for a second wife in the papers because he had three small children that needed caring for (and got one). Spending all his pay, knowing that he had heart disease, and leaving his daughters without any means to earn a living when he died (and no warning that this might be necessary) was a lot crueller.

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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 24 May 2018, 17:19 
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I have a hard time suspending my 21st-century lens when I read this one, much harder than with the Chalet School series. I find it very frustrating that Captain Temple didn't have any plan for his children for if he died, which seems an odd attitude for someone in the military. Elizabeth and Anne's plan appears to be to suffer poverty nobly, which may have met expectations then, but makes me grimace as a modern reader.

I'm not crazy about the supernatural aspects of the book or the White Witch, but I rather enjoy the story and the sweet, close bond of the Temple sisters. I know the part when Elizabeth rejects Paul's marriage proposal is supposed to be sad, but unfortunately it makes me laugh. It's so dramatic. I like Janie, who reminds me very much of Jo Bettany, but I think Polly Ozanne is the more interesting girl.

This is the first La Rochelle book I read and I now appreciate how easy it is to keep the characters straight. I was almost completely lost in "Janie of La Rochelle" when everyone is marrying everyone else.

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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 24 May 2018, 19:55 
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mynameisdumbnuts wrote:
I have a hard time suspending my 21st-century lens when I read this one, much harder than with the Chalet School series.
Oh yes, it's far from easy sometimes - but you're right, it really is essential, especially with this much more traditionally-written series. And 1924 is not only almost a hundred years ago, but before most of the major events of the 20th century. OK, they'd had the death of Queen Victoria; the end of the Boer Wars; the First World War; and the Spanish flu pandemic, but so much more to come... still surprising how very much more modern The School at the Chalet feels, though!


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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 26 May 2018, 22:06 
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I first read this book in my school library and it took a while for the penny to drop that these characters were the future Ozanne, Chester and Lucy mothers.

This book seems much more old fashioned than the early CS books and the Temple girls - including Janie - almost fairytale characters. I cannot imagine the Janie from this era in a secretarial college.

Even if Madge had been left in these circumstances, I think she would have managed but who knows? Much is made of the jaw dropping beauty of Elizabeth and Anne. Maybe that was always to be the key to their future. By moving to Guernsey, they moved to a setting where appropriate husbands were available.

Although the supernatural incidents add a certain quality to the book, I am not all that keen on them. For much the same reason I am not a fan of Head Girl.

Whist certain aspects of Jo can be seen in Janie, I do not see much of her in Pauline, apart from the writing skills. As others have said though, certain aspects of Pauline are recognisable in Mary Lou.

I would have liked to know what happened to Pauline and also to Heather Raphael.


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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 26 May 2018, 23:17 
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Yes where does Pauline go? That's really odd when you think about it.


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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 27 May 2018, 07:08 
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Considering that she's Elizabeth's sister-in-law and Janie's best friend, you'd think they'd have remembered her existence :D .

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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 27 May 2018, 08:48 
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I think the only characters from the La Rochelle books who get updates and who are not the immediate family of a student are Nan Blakeney (there's stuff about her wedding and kids), Gerry (who appears in Head Girl), and if I remember correctly very brief mentions of Jose and Con Atherton.

I actually find it easier to suspend my 20th century views for these books, which so very strongly feel like they come from a different era, than some of the later CS books, which can sometimes be old fashioned and out of touch for the time they were written in.

Elizabeth and Anne's approach to earning a living reminds me of the Shirleys in EJOs Abbey Girls. In that case, Mrs Shirley's approach to being left with little money and two teenage girls is to write to estranged family members for support until one of them gives them an appropriately lady-like job (plus housing). When hard-working, ambitious Joan is offered a scholarship that would be a ticket to marketable job skills and a way out of their dead-end job, she and Mrs Shirley insist on handing it over to the lazy, impetuous Joy because she won't work on her own, and has a talent for composition that must be nurtured (even though she won't practice without being nagged). In their case, its inheriting money and property, rather than marrying well, that saves them from their not very practical plans for life.

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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 27 May 2018, 09:37 
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I've always felt I'd like to know more about Pauline, but yes, I think there is no mention of her anywhere in the CS books - and I seem to recall that there's little, if any, more of her in this series after Heather.

Given EMBD's intuitive approach to writing (as in Jo's remarks about being the transmitter of what her characters tell her), I've always supposed that she 'lost touch' with Pauline, for want of a better way of putting it, and didn't regain it (possibly translates as 'was no longer interested in her'). Elinor may also have been advised not to have characters with similar names, and I do stumble a bit over the two lots of Ozannes in this book, especially as one of them is Julian, like Julian Lucy.

Edited to correct a mistake


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 Post subject: Re: The Maids of La Rochelle
PostPosted: 29 May 2018, 12:53 
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Love this book, probably my favourite EBD! Pauline Ozanne is a wonderful character, one of my all-time favourites in fact. She would have made a brilliant CS girl!


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