Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Carney's House Party by Maud Hart Lovelace

275 pages
Published 1949, reprinted 2000
Harper CollinsPublishers
New York, NY

Carney's House Party is the second of three Deep Valley Books by Maud Hart Lovelace. Although each of the Deep Valley Books takes place in the same town as the Betsy-Tacy books they are not linked any more than to have Betsy Ray make a guest appearance. Instead, as stand-alone novels, each book tells the adventures of a central character and her close friends and family within the much loved town of Deep Valley, Minnesota.

As a side note for those interested, you can read my review of the first Deep Valley Book, Winona's Pony Cart, which I reviewed earlier this year. And watch for my upcoming review of the last book, Emily of Deep Valley.

The Plot:
Carney's House Party takes place over the summer of 1911. As the story opens Carney Sibley has finished her sophomore year at Vassar College and is getting ready to leave the East Coast and return home to the Middle-West and more specifically, Deep Valley. Carney is excited because it is promising to be a wonderful summer as her parents have agreed to let her host a month-long house party with some of her best friends, including old chums Betsy Ray and Bonnie Andrews (recently returned from Paris) and her college roommate, the mysterious yet beautiful, Isobel Porteous.

And the summer is indeed is filled with adventure and fun for Carney and her friends as they frolic together enjoying picnics, swimming, boating, and fishing, dances and parties, or just hanging out and laughing together. To add to this, there are two surprises for Carney. First a new member is added to the crowd, the wealthy and unkempt, but endearing Sam Hutchinson, who appears to take interest in Isobel, and second, the return of Larry Humphreys (Carney's high school sweetheart) who moved to California four years prior. Love is in the air, but what everyone wants to know is -- will Larry and Carney get engaged?

My Thoughts:
For some reason I never got around to reading Carney's House Party when I was reading through the Betsy-Tacy books as a teenager. I wish I hadn't waited so long to look for a copy since it is now out of print and very expensive to purchase. Thankfully I was able to track down a copy through my local library and finally satisfy my curiosity about some of the unanswered questions I've always had. Questions like what happens to Larry and Carney? And what happened in Betsy's life between her senior year at Deep Valley High School in Betsy and Joe and her traveling Europe in Betsy and the Great World?

Over all I really enjoyed Carney's House Party. It is a fun, entertaining, and romantic read that, in my opinion, is equally as good as the Besty-Tacy stories. That said, Carney's House Party has its differences. Instead of spanning an entire year as is the case in the Betsy-Tacy series, this book covers just a summer. Because of this it tends to put a little more detail into the development of characters and the house party activities. Readers should not expect Carney's House Party to be an extension to Betsy and Joe, because after all the story is Carney's and is told from her perspective. I guess you might liken it to what the Road of Avonlea books are to the Anne of Green Gables series.

As is the case with her other works, Carney's House Party isn't just another romance set in the early 1900s. Mrs. Lovelace also manages to weave in subtle lessons and interesting historic details. I noticed several of these in Carney's House Party, but there were two that particularly stood out to me.

First, at one point in the story there is a casual reference made to a newspaper reporting that the Mona Lisa had been stolen from the Louvre in Paris. I love it when Mrs. Lovelace includes these little details because I'm always compelled to dig for more information when it's something I don't know much about, or in this case, I don't know at all. Another example is in Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown when a references is made to the Carnegie Libraries.

Second and on a deeper note, I found it interesting to note the worldview that Carney and her friends have towards college and careers and love and marriage. Life in 1911 was so much different for young women than it is in 2009. While more and more women were attending college they still did not have the right to vote and their futures were limited to a few careers or settling down to raise a family. What I like about the characters that Mrs. Lovelace created in her books is how balanced they always are. For example, Carney and her girlfriends have hopes and dreams that include a higher education and travel, but none of them are men-hating feminists, nor are they milk-toast women content to let others tell them how to live. It is clear throughout the book that Carney not only loves the challenge of attending a college like Vassar, but that she is excelling in her studies. She also believes in a woman's right to vote, yet dreams of one day herself becoming a wife and mother.

On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate Carney's House Party a 4.5. If you've read the Betsy-Tacy series, but never taken the time to read this book you are missing out. Hopefully now that Harper CollinsPublishers reprinted the entire Betsy-Tacy series they will turn their attention to reprinting the Deep Valley Books.


If you have read and enjoyed Carney's House Party, you might also enjoy Future In a Handbasket: The Life and Letters Behind Carney's House Party by Amy Dolnick.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Oh how cool is that!? I didn't even realize there were books that took place in the same town/area as B-T. Of course, I really don't know much about the series anyway and am learning a lot! Thanks for the informative posts (as always).