by Maud Hart Lovelace
So, as you know, I have been greatly enjoying the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. They have just been delightful and adorable and sweet and funny in every way. The first four books were about Betsy’s childhood, and her adventures with her best friends, Tacy and Tib. The next four books were Betsy’s journey through high school, undertaken not only with Tacy and Tib, but with a whole group of happy, friendly teens, known collectively as ‘The Crowd.’ At the end of Betsy and Joe, Betsy graduates from high school. Throughout those four years, she has had a somewhat tumultuous relationship (Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe style) with Joe. Their friendship has had its ups and downs, but they become fast friends by the end of high school, and the closing of that book leaves us with the feeling that their friendship will probably bloom into something more over the next few years.
And so, we come to Betsy and the Great World. Imagine my surprise when I opened it, only to find that four years have passed since we last saw Betsy! She’s hopping on board a boat that will take her across the Atlantic to tour Europe. And so we get this Reader’s Digest version of the happenings of the Crowd–of whom I have become very fond through the last four books–that is incredibly unsatisfactory. This one’s dad died, this one has been sick, this one got married, etc. And Tacy–my favorite!–has gotten married in the interim, to a fellow we barely met in the last book.
Not only that, but Betsy and Joe were “practically engaged” and then had a disagreement and now they aren’t speaking. And even though Betsy sees Joe interviewing someone just as she is getting on the boat, she doesn’t say hello or farewell or anything (and spends the rest of the book regretting it). So now we have a heroine who is in love with someone we don’t know very well (as Joe didn’t run with the Crowd all that much) and yet completely out of touch with him. And so it adds this sort of uncomfortable emotion to the entire book–almost as though Betsy’s wonderful, exciting, beautiful adventure is tainted by the fact that she keeps seeing and hearing things she knows Joe would enjoy, but she can’t tell him about them, and as the reader, I don’t really care that much, because I have no idea what Joe would like, because I don’t know him at all.
Betsy makes so many other friends and sees so many wonderful things. I think that the whole book would have been SO much better if, instead of creating this whole disagreement situation, Lovelace had had Betsy just tell Joe that she wasn’t ready to be engaged before traveling about, or something like that–something that would have allowed them to at least remain friends, so we could get to know Joe a bit and so Betsy wouldn’t spend her entire trip feeling sad about that whole relationship.
And while this book was quite enjoyable and very interesting, one of the chief delights (for me) of the rest of the series has been the wonderful interaction of Betsy’s entire family, and, naturally, they don’t figure much into this story–I missed them!
So while this book was wonderful and sweet in its own way, the whole Joe situation was a nagging annoyance, the four-year gap was very unsatisfying, and Betsy spent much of the book being sad and lonely, leaving me feeling a bit sad and lonely as well. Only a 4/5 for this one–still excellent, wholesome writing, but not quite up to the par of the rest of the series.