Friday, November 14, 2008

Good Morning, Miss Dove by Frances Gray Patton

I found Good Morning, Miss Dove at a library book sale. I knew nothing about it, but it looked interesting and I figured for 50 cents I couldn't go wrong. And I didn't.

Good Morning, Miss Dove is a sentimental story of a spinster geography teacher and the children she has taught. Miss Dove is both prim and proper and believes that governing a classroom with strict rules is the only proper environment in which children can learn. Miss Dove’s life is predicable and safe, and as the story opens it seems just another day, until she is taken suddenly ill and is hospitalized. As the story of Miss Dove’s illness unfolds so does the sub-story of her past told through her reminisces and those of her students (both past and present) who have come to her aide and to visit her.

Published in 1954, Good Morning, Miss Dove became an instant best seller and within a year was adapted into a full-length film, which makes sense since the story is told by an invisible narrator with only some dialog and lends easily to a screenplay.

I found Mrs. Patton’s writing easy to read and her characters and setting easy to imagine. One unique aspect of Good Morning, Miss Dove is that even though the book is 218 pages, it contains chapter breaks. Instead the story breaks only occur occasionally with pen and ink sketches. But still the story is a quick and easy read.

Good Morning, Miss Dove is a “feel good” book with subtle lessons. I tend to limit my reading of sentimental stories just as a person would limit their intake of something sweet, too much can give you a headache. But it has been a while since I've read a story like this and I found it a worthwhile read. It reminded me of another similar story I read years ago: Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton. If you have read and enjoyed one, you are sure to enjoy the other. If you've not read either, you should be sure to add one or both to your "TBR" list.

Unfortunately both are out of print, so it may be a little hard to locate a copy. I suggest checking your library before purchasing a copy online, who knows you might get lucky and even find the movie adaptations of these books.

Before reading Good Morning, Miss Dove, I knew nothing of Frances Grey Patton. A little research taught me this: She was a life-long writer who told gentle stories of love, of good people, with both wit and charm. Mrs. Patton loved the short-story best, although it was Good Morning, Miss Dove, her first novel, that made her famous. In addition to writing, Mrs. Patton also taught creative writing at Duke University. To many she was best remembered as “The Jane Austen of the South” because of her writing-style.

On a scale of one to five (one being horrible and five being excellent), I would rate Good Morning, Miss Dove at a 3.5 to 4. It was sweet and charming, but not a life-time favorite. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I definitely recommend it as a read for someone looking for a warm and fuzzy story.


hopeinbrazil said...

I read this book many years ago and remember enjoying it. I agree with you about limiting oneself to occasional reading "candy". I appreciated your comments on the author. Thanks for a good post!

Henry Zecher said...

I discovered this book in high school, and I read it every year or two. For me, it is definitely a life-long favorite, an increasingly soothing and inspiring read in increasingly troubled times, conveying values and sentiments that should never die.