Attitude: Take Care
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published in: 2003
Age Range: Young Teens+
Period: Late 19th C
- Wendy is a 9-year-old girl, inquisitive and nature-loving. At first unaware of the difficulties of adult life, she comes to understand something of the forces that drive her parents. She has two younger brothers, John and Michael.
- They are looked after by the terrorising Nanny Holborn, who punishes them for the smallest fault and who seems to be set on making their lives a misery.
- George Darling, Wendy's father, is a selfish man, a poor husband and father, interested more in showing off to his friends than to taking an interest in his wife and children.
- Mrs Darling is a slighty feather-headed woman, blissfully ignorant of where her money is coming from until it runs out.
- Esther Cunningham, nearly 21, is a suffragette. She is the older daughter of Lord Cunningham by his first wife, who died when Esther years before. She forms a close friendship with the inquisitive Wendy, despite their difference in age.
- Thomas is a 15-year-old living in Rosegrove, the country place belonging to Wendy's uncle and aunt. He is in some way retarded but is a gifted painter.
Wendy Darling, an inquisitive but innocent girl, learns more and more about the adult world as her family goes through difficult times. Her father is involved in an affair with Lady Cunningham, her mother is unaware that their money is running out, her Nanny is cruel and spiteful, and she can only look forward to the summer when she can go to her Uncle's house, Rosegrove. But even there, more secrets emerge.
Literary: A take on the Peter Pan story, more bound to realism: the boy who doesn't want to grow up is the strange Thomas, a few years older than Wendy, who lives near Rosegrove and who can paint so vividly, as though he were flying above the scenes he paints. Wendy herself is forced to grow up as she encounters indirectly the hardships of the adult world, often through witnessing conversations and encounters not meant for her. The characters are individual: inquisitive yet innocent Wendy, nervous John, spiteful Nanny, vain Mr Darling. Even Alice and Liza the maids, characters who usually fade easily into the background, have their own lives and likes. The story is character-driven, with the plot running alongside to force one awakening after another on Wendy, bringing in her father's adultery and insolvency, her friend's sad precocity when it comes to adult relationships, Thomas' relationship with her mother, and Esther's fight for women's rights.
Family: Wendy's family appears fragmented to our eyes: the three children are looked after by a cruel nanny while the parents socialise. Even when they go out for a picnic, the occasion is awkward and spoilt by George, petulant because his wife insisted on walking in the park rather than taking the car. It is, ironically, in Rosegrove, idyllic country cottage of Wendy's childless uncle and aunt, that the children and their mother feel most at home. Ultimately Wendy's mother does not desert her husband even when he has lost his job and faces prison.
Lord Cunningham, when he discovers his wife has been having an affair with George Darling, gives her the choice of moving with the family to their house in Northumberland, or a divorce. She explains that she was in love with his car, with the thrill of the whole experience, but recognises that — much as she detests the rural Saundersbane — the scandal of a divorce would be too much.
Letitia, playing dolls with Wendy, has two dolls kiss each other and get into bed together.
Rosegrove was like a black and white gingerbread palace. The huge wooden beams that made up the framework of the house were arranged in herringbone patterns and diamonds and clover leaves, the spaces in between filled with bright white plaster. The steep wooden eaves were so beautifully carved that they looked like strips of lace. She pulled off her straw hat and felt the warmth of the sun on her face and the magic of Rosegrove inside her. Aunt Emily and Uncle Arthur had no children but whenever she came to the house it felt as if she was coming home to a family. In all the years she had been here, she had never overheard a single conversaion in which someone said something bad about someone else. People seemed happy to get on with their lives. Wendy thought of the angry secrets piled up in every dark corner of her parents' house in London.
Wednesday 18th February 2004