Monday, August 20, 2007

Ballet Shoes

For freeway driving hours 14-21 of the week (yes, you read that right), we followed the example of my exemplary sister and got books on CD from the library.

Books on CD sure make freeway driving more pleasurable, though at this point I am still so car averse that I may even skip the beach tomorrow.

We only managed to listen to one of the books, even with all those hours (a few of which involved cousins in the car and hence no listening). It was Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes which mesmerized us all, even though E was the only one encountering it for the first time.

But perhaps because I'd read the book so many times (to myself as a child, to M when she was younger) and knew exactly what would happen, and perhaps because I was listening, not reading, and perhaps because I was encountering it all at once, in three straight hours on Saturday and another three on Sunday, I noticed things I'd never noticed.

Ballet Shoes is a novel of vocation, for girls, that doesn't end in giving up vocation for boys (i.e. it trumps Little Women and Middlemarch by far, and I'm having trouble thinking of any other books like it). It is also a profoundly mathematical novel, which seems somehow related to this theme: there is a constant string of financial and temporal calculations, and the narrative itself moves not by dramatic event but by season, sequentially. For some reason I found all this very interesting, and very post-WWI/Depression-era England.

I really must read I Capture the Castle.

[Anyone who knows the novel and my daughters will not be surprised to hear that M wants to be Pauline and E Posy.]


Jenny Davidson said...

Read "I Capture the Castle"!

I loved all those Streatfeild novels when I was a kid, but I think "Ballet Shoes" really was the best. And of course I completely identified with Petrova, tho with a pang of Pauline because of the acting thing!

Libby said...

I love "I Capture the Castle," too. And the Streatfeild novels were my favorites as a kid, but my very favorite was The Painted Garden, also known as Movie Shoes--in it a somewhat sulky girl is cast as Mary in a movie of The Secret Garden. I adored it and still do. (I could never identify with any of the Fossils, alas!)

Phantom Scribbler said...

Via Jane Dark, the news that the BBC is adapting it for a full-length television movie.

Jenny Davidson said...

"The Painted Garden" is definitely one of my other favorites--the sulky heroine Jane has a dog called Chewing Gum... I think "Ballet Shoes" has more romance for me though because it's this lost pre-WWII England, "Painted Garden" is California and just less of a setting I was invested in transporting myself to...