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 Post subject: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2018, 04:18 
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Janie Steps In

And now for the final La Rochelle book. This book was published well after the others, in 1953, but appears to have been written much earlier, as Nan's story is referred to in various CS books. The main character is Nan Blakeney, a cousin of the Athertons, who has recently lost her mother and has come to stay with the Lucys. The book takes places ~6 years after the previous one, and ends shortly before the CS moved to Guernsey.

The book starts with a scene between Rosamund and Nigel Willoughby. Rosamund's 17 year old cousin, Nan Blakeney, has been staying with them for six months. An only child, her mother was killed in a car accident and her father, badly injured and emotionally broken, is on a sea voyage for his health. Nan was very close to her parents, had little experience outside the family estate, and is still grieving badly, and Rosamund recognizes that she can't help the girl. Nigel suggests sending Nan to the Lucys, for a change of scenery and Janie's sensible outlook. He also suggests that Nan's father is a broken man, and will likely not survive long.

We then meet Nan and Rosamund's two children, Toby and Blossom. Nan is pale and listless, and begs not to be sent away from Rosamund, who resembles her mother, but Rosamund convinces her to try it; the others plot for Nan's stay to be an extended one.

Not long afterwards, Nan is on the train to the boat for Guernsey. Nigel intended to accompany her, but was called away on a case. Nan spends most of the train ride in a daydream of her old life. She is distracted on the boat by two boys, travelling with their father, who are trying to make people sea-sick by discussing food. Nan accepts the challenge and one ups them, to their delight. She then learns that they're the Ozanne boys, and Paul steps in to help her. Janie then meets them at the dock.

Janie whisks Nan to Les Arbres, and introduces her to the family; Julie, John, Betsy, and baby Vi. Janie's cheerful chatter and casual air is a good distraction for Nan. Janie puts the children to bed, and finds out that John has painted skeletons on the wall by the sea, to her amusement. Janie describes the children as obedient, but very good at finding their way around rules. John, for example, has figured out that he can get away with things if he confesses them during prayers, as Janie won't punish them for confessed sins. Julian provides a spanking for the graffiti, however, as he discovered it on his own.

A few days later, Elizabeth and the children visit. At the end of the visit, Julie is found to be missing. She and Bill are returned home by Peter Chester, dressed in outlandish costumes. It turns out that Bill dared her to do it, and she interpreted "don't go out alone" as meaning she was allowed to go out with Bill, who is older. Bill is in trouble, and Nan recommends that he apologize, but he is still sulky at being chastized.

The next event is the return of the Chesters from a vacation; Nan and Janie go to their home to help prepare for their visit. Nan is surprised by how faded and worn the house is, and Janie tells her the Chesters' story. The family had been doing well, but Peter's private income was embezzled by a dodgy solicitor, and they lost everything but Peter's doctor income. At the same time, Barbara, the youngest Chester, was born a frail and sickly child. The family is still in financial difficulty, unable to afford good schools or decent servants. The younger children are being taught with the Lucy children, and Paul is being educated by his godfather, and Nancy by her godmother, Janie. The family offered to help with Beth's education as well, but were refused out of pride. Beth has been sent to a second rate private school, where she's not allowed to socialize with her classmates, and is expected to look after the younger children and do chores when she's at home. That, combined with Anne's preoccupation with Barbara, has Beth convinced that her parents don't love her. Janie is worried and exasperated, but reluctant to speak up for fear that Nancy's education will suffer as well.

Janie orders some local apples to stock the Chesters' cupboards. The Chesters arrive, and Peter drags everyone into the apple-loft. It turns out that everyone had the bright idea of buying them apples, for a total of nearly 800 kg worth. The next day, the families have a picnic. Nan meets Beth, and hears her woes about her situation, and sees the frail Barbara. Janie is worried that 18 month old Barbara, indulged in every whim, is turning into a selfish little creature. Janie and Nan get soaked, and meet David Willoughby, now a naval officer on leave. He is quite taken with Nan.

Toby and Blossom have measles, which delays Nan's return. Julie and John manage to fall down the stairs on the horse, and the Chester and Lucy children paint themselves with Beth's beloved painbox, which is ruined. Janie is sympathetic to Beth, but Anne has little patience with her eldest daughter and chastises her for being rude. Janie loses her patience, and tells Anne off for her attitude towards the girl. Anne is stunned, but soon forgets the issue when Barbara falls ill with bronchitis.

Julian and Janie head out of town to visit friends, and Nan is left in charge, with Nanny and the governess. Nanny has to leave suddenly, as her father is ill. John and Julie play Indians, John is in a rebellious mood, and the children paint Betsy with nail polish. The children then come down with mumps, meaning Janie has to stay away with Vi. The Chester children join them, to help protect Barbara. Beth isn't able to say good-bye to her parents, and is further convinced that Anne doesn't love her, which makes her illness worse.

Nan gets a letter from her father, and sees that he is failing. She talks to Julian, who helps comfort her, and see that it's better that he die than remain crippled and heartbroken. He also re-affirms that she's welcome to stay with the Lucys as long as she wants.

Janie is finally able to return to her family, to their delight. They gets an irate letter from a neighbour, complaining that John has dressed and defaced up her garden statues. Just then, another neihgbour, a peppery Colonel, arrives in a temper, to say that John had stolen his doormat. John is called for, and confesses. He wanted to see the Colonel "blow the roof off" after hearing someone comment about his temper. John apologizes, and the colonel calms down.

The story then skips ahead six months. Lord Blakeney has died and Rosamund has had a second daughter, Judy. Nan is studying secretarial work, to keep busy, and Barbara is slowly improving. Nan comes to talk to Janie; she has gotten a letter from David with a near-proposal. Janie advises waiting; they haven't spent much time together, mostly communicating via letters, and Nan has very little experience with other men and is unsure of her feelings. Shortly afterwards, Janie has a baby boy. Nan suggests a name; Barnabas, which means "son of consolation".



---


Updates: Rosamund has three children (Toby, Blossom, Judy) and Nigel is working as a lawyer. Con has two boys, and is heading to Ceylon with Rex. Maidie has a girl, Sigrid has three children. David is in the navy, Peter is working in western Canada and gets engaged. Allegra has twins. The Raphaels are not mentioned, and Pollie is only very briefly mentioned.

Elizabeth still has four children, Anne has six; Beth, Paul, Nancy, twins Robin and Dickon and Barbara. Janie has five by the end of the story; Julie, John, Betsy Vi and Barney.

In the CS series:

The older Chester and Lucy children, Vanna and Nella, plus Nita Eltringham join the school when it opens in Guernsey. Blossom and Judy also join at some point, and the younger Chester and Lucy girls. Barbara becomes healthy and joins the CS in Switzerland.

During the war, Paul Ozanne gets a recordership in Armiford, and Janie, Anne and their children also settle nearby. Rosamund and Cesca and their families settle near the Atherton family. Julian serves in the RAF, Peter as an army doctor. Some of the families return to Guernsey after the war. Cesca has seven children, Nita, Edmund, four more boys, and a baby girl, Rosamund. Cesca herself is frail for years after a bout of pneumonia. Rosamund has two more children; a frail boy named Aubrey and a baby girl. Anne and Janie each have one more girl; Janice and Kitten respectively. Much later, Paul Ozanne gets a job in Singapore, and Elizabeth and the twins go with him.

Beth attends Oxford (probably), returns home to tutor Barbara, spends a couple of years as Joey's mother's help before marrying (probably Noel Atherton) and having a daughter. Nancy trains as a nurse, and marries a doctor. Julie goes to Oxford, intending to become a lawyer, but drops out to marry a housemaster at Barney's school. Vi goes to Art School, and plans on doing textile design. Nan eventually marries David. They have four boys and a girl, Christine.

-----

So, what do you think of the last of the La Rochelle books? Do you see Janie as a proto-Joey, with her house full of kids and tendency to help people? What do you think of the three Temple girls and their offspring and parenting styles? What about Nan and David's relationship, and Janie's advice (particularly compared to Len and Reg). Any comments on the La Rochelle series as a whole, or the characters as they appear in the Chalet School.

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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2018, 06:40 
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I quite like the Nan and David romance, and think Janie's advice is sensible. I'm not particularly keen on EBD's thing about people "butting in" - I'm not sure when it develops, because no-one really "butts in" in the early years of either the Chalet School or the La Rochelle books.

I feel so sorry for Beth, though. They're accepting help from relatives for the other children, so why not for Beth as well? They send her to a school where she's not allowed to be friends with the other girls out of school, and is made to look different by being dropped off and collected whilst everyone else walks or gets the bus, so it's inevitable that people will think she's snobbish and that she'll be unpopular. It annoys me that Janie, and presumably EBD, defends Anne's behaviour over the school. Poor Beth!

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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2018, 11:54 
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jennifer wrote:
JJanie orders some local apples to stock the Chesters' cupboards. The Chesters arrive, and Peter drags everyone into the apple-loft. It turns out that everyone had the bright idea of buying them apples, for a total of nearly 800 kg worth.


Decided to try and work out exactly how many apples this was - apparently it's between 5,000 and 7,000 apples depending on size!

I knew it must be a lot but !!!!!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2018, 22:50 
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I am not so keen on Janie in this book. A bit of a bossy madam.

I feel really sorry for Beth. She was in a horrible situation feeling unloved and not as valued as the rest of her family.

Why on earth though, did EBD give Anne such a huge family? She suddenly went from two children to seven or eight (one of them died) in such a short space of time. I would not have thought that Anne also wanting to spend time on her art, would have had such a huge family.

I also thought the shabbiness of the house a bit exaggerated after such a short time. Just don't know either would Anne have wanted fur coats and such luxury living.

I cannot help but think Anne's character was changed so Janie could overtake her as a "main" sister with Elizabeth.

I thought it good Nan was made to wait to get married. Pity Joey and Jack did not apply the same rules for Len getting engaged. David seems to have been attracted very quickly to Nan though.

This book was published around 1953 and EBD seems to have been very taken with the La Rochelle people at this time as Bride, Changes, Barbara, were all published around 1953.

PS I thought the idea of all the roons opening out of each other in Les Arbes quite mad and I was not a fan of the exploits of the Lucy children.


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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 12 Jul 2018, 16:29 
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I know Janie and Nan are the central characters here, but I feel this book is about the Chesters more than anything. I'd love to see it rewritten from Anne's point of view.

It is silly that the Chesters won't let the Lucys or Ozannes help with Beth's education when they are taking care of all the others. Godparents seem to get a special status, which makes me wonder -- who are Beth's godparents? Presumably of the same class and wealth as the Chesters, so could they have paid for Beth?

It's maddening to see the decisions the Chesters are making. They have a house they can't afford in a place that doesn't provide enough business for them to live the life they want. I know they love Guernsey, but obviously Peter doesn't make enough money there. Leaving should have been an option.

Anne's artistic nature in The Maids of La Rochelle indicates someone capable of depth of feeling. Here she's reduced to "beauty-loving," something quite superficial and about appearances, which I suppose reflects how she is living her life.

I think Janie handled her confrontation with Anne badly. This obviously is delicate ground, and no parent is going to respond well to accusations that they don't pay attention to, or, even worse, don't love their child. I'm glad Beth has someone sticking up for her though. The poor child genuinely believes her mother doesn't love her, and Anne basically ignores her and Peter refers to her as a "silly kid" who's pulled the idea out of thin air. Peter seems pretty useless in this book. He's a smart fellow; surely he can see it's not practical to carry on as they are?

The resolution to the Anne-Beth problem doesn't make any sense. They go on a trip to Switzerland, but Anne brings Barbara, who is one of the reasons why Beth is so upset in the first place. Barbara is teething and gets bronchitis a lot, so surely this isn't a great time for a long trip? Plus World War II was hardly the best time to holiday on the continent.

Aside from all that though (heh), the book is all right. Janie comes across well -- she's a good mix of caring, brisk, merry, sensible and light-hearted. As a married couple, I think the Lucys have a better dynamic than the Maynards. Janie and Julian seem more like equals, and Julian more humourous and less authoritarian than Jack. I don't think Julian would coddle Janie, nor do I think Janie would let him if he tried.

It was good of the Lucys to take in Nan, who they must barely know, and commit to helping her. I really liked Janie's advice to Nan regarding David Willoughby, although I question how many eligible men Nan would meet in Guernsey. Jo should have said the same to Len.

The children's pranks get increasingly less interesting. Either they are painting a wall, painting themselves or painting each other. Not very original. At least the doormat was something different.

I did appreciate this book for the backstory on Barbara. Now Barbara at the Chalet School makes more sense to me.

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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2018, 01:36 
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I find the differences in parenting styles to be quite interesting. The Ozannes end up with indulged children they don't expect much of - Bill is always in trouble, and the girls are generally known as lazy and immature, and end up years below their age group in form, without their parents paying much attention. There's no expectation that the twins will need to finish their school exams, let alone support themselves. The Chesters nearly ruin both Beth and Barbara, the latter through indulgence, and the former through pride and a complete lack of empathy. The Lucys are better balanced, but their little rules-lawyers are annoying, and the combination of no punishment if they can hide their misdeeds until evening confession, and anything not expressly forbidden being fair game is not a very sensible parenting approach.

I do have to roll my eyes at the horror of having to survive on only a doctor's salary, but I think part of the problem is that they were living a lifestyle of someone with significant private means. Once that collapsed, they had a big expensive to maintain house, and they don't seem to be considering selling the house and moving somewhere easier to manage. It's a little like in Three Maids, where getting a job to earn money doesn't occur to the Temples - they're just not that class of young lady. And once the house gets run down, it'd be a lot harder to sell.

When it comes to Beth's school, one of the criticisms of her classmates are the girls who want to pass exams and get jobs away from Guernsey. The family disapproves, because they love Guernsey. But Guernsey doesn't have a lot of economic potential for young women who don't want to be poor but picturesque farmer or fishermen's wives, living in a cottage with a ton of kids and no money. And, of course, once war threatens the whole clan immediately decamps to England, leaving their beloved Guernsey and less well-to-do neighbours behind.

I rather like Janie here. She's self-assured, but she's not as overwhelming as later-era Joey, and she's very welcoming to Nan, and really cares about Beth's misery. Her advice to Nan regarding David is very sensible, and something I really wish Len had been told.

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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2018, 06:30 
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I wonder what a doctor’s income was in an area like Guernsey, in the pre-NHS era? Healthcare was private, so I guess his income was dictated by having a good range of patients, who could afford to pay his fees? Would there have been any regular stipend associated, or is he in fact a small business man and those fees are his only income, post-embezzelment?

Strikes me they should have moved to a more populous area, regardless of not being able to afford their big house, so he had access to more ‘customers’.

(All pre-NHS knowledge cribbed from golden age crime books :D )


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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2018, 13:23 
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From what we know of Peter Chester, he would have set up his practice in a poor area, where people couldn't afford to pay that much, if anything, for his services. Wasn't there something called a "panel" for the very poor, or was that just in mainland UK?

Anyway, I think it is Anne Chester mostly to blame. The family seem to make all sorts of petty economies (no white rolls for breakfast, for instance), but she can't - and Peter is presumably too busy to - settle down and work out what their income is likely to be and how to live within it. She couldn't do it earlier, either, and she couldn't see that her parenting style wasn't working, either.

As for going on holiday to Switzerland just before WWII broke out, that would still have been possible, although they might have had trouble getting home (see Nevil Shute's Pied Piper, which if you haven't read you totally should) if they left it later than May 1940. The CS didn't restart in Guernsey until September 1939, and Barbara was home by then.


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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2018, 19:14 
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People pay to see the GP now in the Channel Islands


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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 14 Jul 2018, 00:30 
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I always get the impression Jersey, and probably Guernsey too, are very affluent places. Would this have been the case between the two world wars when the La Rochelle books are set?

Although Peter Chester was "nice" he had a large family who seemed to enjoy a high standard of living.


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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 14 Jul 2018, 01:03 
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Mrs Redboots wrote:
Anyway, I think it is Anne Chester mostly to blame. The family seem to make all sorts of petty economies (no white rolls for breakfast, for instance), but she can't - and Peter is presumably too busy to - settle down and work out what their income is likely to be and how to live within it. She couldn't do it earlier, either, and she couldn't see that her parenting style wasn't working, either.


Definitely! She kept champagne tastes on a beer budget. Sell the massive home, downsize to a smaller place without the big garden and need for gardeners and maids, do some proper economising that is more realistic about your household budget, get over your pride and talk to your own daughter!

Peter seems to be far too in love with his wife to put his foot down with her though, despite the fact he drives his daughter back and forth to school, he doesn't seem to chat to her either. It's NAN who ends up having to tell him what is wrong with Beth.

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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 14 Jul 2018, 08:43 
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It's odd that Anne's so careless with money. I can understand someone who'd never had to worry about money just spending away merrily without really thinking about it, if they'd never known any other sort of lifestyle, but Anne knew all too well how quickly circumstances could change.

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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 14 Jul 2018, 09:24 
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This is the one La Rochelle book that I've read (some years ago), and now I can't find my copy!
I was interested to read the synopsis, though - thank you, Jennifer. I do hope I can find the book to go back through and consider all the financial aspects again, which I didn't think through as thoroughly as they deserved, evidently! I hadn't registered nearly all of the children's painting misdeeds, either, perhaps because I find that sort of thing fairly dull reading.
I did remember vividly the business about the boys trying to make Nan sick on the boat; I thought it was a pretty nasty game, and that they were old enough to realise that making random strangers uncomfortable/unhappy isn't the pastime of decent folk. I think EBD has the same stunt elsewhere, though, doesn't she? And I think it's treated as an acceptable joke there, too. Does that ring any bells?


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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 14 Jul 2018, 23:53 
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Alison H wrote:
It's odd that Anne's so careless with money. I can understand someone who'd never had to worry about money just spending away merrily without really thinking about it, if they'd never known any other sort of lifestyle, but Anne knew all too well how quickly circumstances could change.


It is completely out of character and so very different from the original Anne. The only explanation I can think of is that after being deprived of luxuries (although she did not seem to think this in the earlier books) she just went a bit mad and wanted everything when she could have them.

I don't understand the shabby house though in such a short space of time, unless the children had been allowed to rampage everywhere. This again does not fit in with Anne's character.

Beth does not make sense either. Taking a dislike to your own child seems horrible. In a way it would have made more sense to take a dislike to Barbara whose birth came at the time the Chester fortunes changed.

I can see her being protective of Barbara though when she had lost a previous child. Fail to understand either why EBD gave her such a big family - piling on the misery.


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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 15 Jul 2018, 02:31 
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I can sort of see her attitude - their 'poor' period only lasted about a year, and her plan for that was to move to a cheaper area and try to make money being a serious artist (ie, not very practical). If she and Elizabeth hadn't quickly found rich husbands, the flaws in that plan would have caught up with them. The same sort of thing is happening here. The Chesters still see themselves as the sort of family that has devoted servants, a lovely house, and sends their kids to good schools, but they can't afford it anymore and haven't adjusted their thinking or plans.

The shabbiness of the house makes sense when you think of pre-modern cleaning and a big old house. Wood floors that need to be swept and mopped and polished, rugs that had to be taken out and beaten, heating and cooking done with firewood (which makes soot and increases cleaning), laundry washed by hand, run through a mangle, hung dry, ironed and starched. Furniture that needs to be polished regularly. Cooking on a wood stove with no convenience foods. Fancy gardens and lawns that need to be mowed, trimmed, rolled, watered, annuals replaced. They originally had a staff - three full time maids, a full time gardener, a governess, and a nanny, and presumably would hire people for repairs. Then, suddenly, it's just Anne, a not very good maid, and the added burden of a baby who needs constant attention.

Their best bet would have been for Peter to step up on the planning end, and to ask for help. Have Anne and the kids move in with family for a short time, while they sold the house and found something more affordable. Then they'd have a more manageable setup to think of longer term plans - finding a more lucrative job for Peter, moving somewhere with decent schools nearby, that sort of thing. Instead, they just suffer - to the detriment of all - until a distant relative leaves Peter an inheritance to solve their problems.

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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 15 Jul 2018, 08:09 
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I do find that ending very unsatisfactory. I know it's an easy way of solving all the problems, and similar things happen in other EBD books - Annis's dad miraculously turning up alive, and Naomi's miraculous recovery, although at least those are both rewards for people who've been through the mill - but it's far too unlikely and it lets everyone off without them having to learn their lesson.

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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 16 Jul 2018, 00:24 
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Housemate wrote:
I did remember vividly the business about the boys trying to make Nan sick on the boat; I thought it was a pretty nasty game, and that they were old enough to realise that making random strangers uncomfortable/unhappy isn't the pastime of decent folk.


They actually do manage to make another passenger ill and then they laugh over it. I agree it's not acceptable given the age of the boys (and then they lie to their dad about it) but EBD does have comments or jokes which would be considered eyebrow rising now e.g. Joey calling Sophie Fatty.

jennifer wrote:
I can sort of see her attitude - their 'poor' period only lasted about a year, ... The same sort of thing is happening here. The Chesters still see themselves as the sort of family that has devoted servants, a lovely house, and sends their kids to good schools, but they can't afford it anymore and haven't adjusted their thinking or plans.


I also see her POV - I had a lean period of no income and you do sigh with relief when it's over and start spending as before. But you also calm down and realise that just because the 'poor' period is over doesn't mean you don't budget.

I can understand the Chesters being shocked by the sudden change in circumstances but by the time of Janie steps in, it's been two years which should be enough time to accept their new reality and adjust their lifestyle.

Quote:
Their best bet would have been for Peter to step up on the planning end, and to ask for help.


Peter seems completely impotent in this book - he doesn't talk to his daughter until she is ill and crying and, as you say, he doesn't take charge and force his wife and family to face reality.

Maybe he feels guilty for trusting the solicitor and getting them into a financial mess. So he seems to just go along as before and pretends circumstances have not changed and his family are the ones who suffer.

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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 16 Jul 2018, 07:37 
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Jennifer's comments on how the house could be shabby are very true. I was only looking at the situation by today's standards and not those of that time.

Peter no doubt did feel guilty. He could even have been suffering from depression or anxiety which would have stopped him from taking any action.


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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 20 Jul 2018, 04:00 
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Audrey25 wrote:
Peter no doubt did feel guilty. He could even have been suffering from depression or anxiety which would have stopped him from taking any action.


There's also the feeling that the Chesters already feel like the 'poor relation' and if they downsize and reduce their expenses even further, then their children will start to feel the difference between themselves and their cousins.

Beth already casually comments on the lack of hot rolls for breakfast because they are to expensive. Do hot rolls really cost that much more than what the Chesters normally had for breakfast?? Or was she being sarcastic?

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 Post subject: Re: Janie Steps In
PostPosted: 20 Jul 2018, 09:59 
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I wondered about the rolls too. Perhaps the Chesters don't have a cook and have to make do with shop bought bread. (The horror!) Also Beth isn't allowed coffee which I think was normal, that children drank only milk. It was only at the CS that they drank coffee.


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