Home > Books > Read: The Secret Garden. Reading: Graustark

Read: The Secret Garden. Reading: Graustark

A while ago I had read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, and quite liked it. She managed to make the main character Good but not “goody-goody”; a tricky line to walk. So I figured I’d try her The Secret Garden. And it was fine. But, holy smoke, the whole time I was reading it, I was going, “This is Lady Chatterley’s Lover for kids.” It is, too. In fact I did a websearch on the two books afterwards to see if I was the only one to notice, and I’m pleased to say that I am not. The main characters parallel each other, there are all those references to the good English earth and its wholesome influence… It’s actually pretty blatant. I wonder what Lawrence thought he was getting away with.

And now I’m reading Graustark, by George Barr McCutcheon. It’s one of these Ruritanian romances I mentioned earlier. It’s quite readable but the characters are driving me nuts by not doing obvious things. First, there’s been a mysterious murder and the hero has been framed for it. Part of the frame is a bloody handprint on his doorknob. So I’m here saying, you idiots, if you’ve got a bloody handprint, then take everybody’s fingerprints and compare them; problem solved. But they don’t. (You may say, aha, Matthew, Graustark was written in 1901, and fingerprints weren’t a thing then. To which I respond that Mark Twain wrote Pudd’nhead Wilson in 1894, and fingerprints were the big plot point there, and there’s no reason why the hero and/or McCutcheon shouldn’t know that.) Also, you’ve got this one prince who tried to have the princess kidnapped, to which the hero’s friend is a witness, and the princess needs money big time. So why wouldn’t she just clap the guy in irons and say, “You tried to have me kidnapped and that’s a hanging offense in Graustark. Or I could let you off with a giant fine which coincidentally happens to be the same amount as my outstanding debt.” But oh no. Instead everybody stands around talking about how terrible it all is. But it’s fine anyway.

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