John C Adams Reviews 'Clover' by Susan Coolidge
Clover by Susan Coolidge (Girls Gone By Publishers, 2004)
If you're reading this and thinking, 'Susan Coolidge? Didn't she write the What Katy Did series I remember from when I was a kid?' then you're spot on. 'Clover' is in fact the follow-up novel to Coolidge's hugely successful novels 'What Katy Did', 'What Katy Did At School' and 'What Katy Did Next'. Many people assume that Coolidge only wrote these books about her much-loved heroine. In fact, 'Clover' and a fifth book called 'In The High Valley' continued the series.
I'm describing this novel as having been published in 2004, which is when Girls Gone By issued it, but 'Clover' was originally published by Robert Brothers in 1888. It's had quite a varied publishing history since, but more on that later.
For those of you for whom discovering that there are in fact more than three Katy books out there (something I never realised until I stumbled upon 'Clover' and 'In The High Valley' in 2005) has come as something of a surprise, let me bring you up to speed on the Carr family's exploits without further delay.
'Clover' opens with Katy's wedding. It's a delightful affair, partly because she's deeply in love and partly because Cousin Helen and Rose Red are both able to make long journeys to be there. After Katy has left with her new husband to begin married life, Clover and the other Carr siblings miss her terribly. However, family concern for Phil's health (their younger brother and the youngest of the six children) soon occupies their thoughts. Phil is a growing boy, but has a weak chest and the warm lakeside climate of Burnet is precisely the wrong place for him to be. In a world without central heating or antibiotics, a weak chest often led to more serious ailments so Dr Carr arranges for Phil and Clover, the second child of the family and now a young woman, to travel to Colorado for him to recuperate from an attack of pneumonia.
Travelling across America while in charge of an invalid worries Clover, not least of all logistically given the amount of luggage required for them to stay away for a whole year, and the responsibilities of caring for her ailing brother weigh heavily upon her mind. She rallies to the challenge of staying positive during the long journey, though, and sets about making a home for them among the strangers of St Helens, a frontier town up in the hills where the crisp air has led to a number of hotels and boarding houses opening for invalids and where the medical services are excellent. Unexpectedly, Clover runs into her cousin Clarence Page, who I remember vividly as a particularly unimpressive teenage boy in 'What Katy Did At School'. Clarence now owns a cattle ranch, and he invites her to visit it, and he introduces Clover to his business partner, an Englishman called Geoffrey Templestowe.
Discovering that there were more Katy books than just the ones I remember from childhood was a treat in itself. It was wonderful to see more of Clover in her own right in this novel, since she was seldom directly the focus of attention in the first three Katy books.
Until Girls Gone By rescued 'Clover' from obscurity, along with the fifth and final Katy book, it had fallen out of notice for some time. Partly because the last two novels don't really feature Katy except in passing, and partly because they describe slightly more adult themes such as getting married and raising a family, 'Clover' and 'In The High Valley' were never as widely read as the first three novels. This is a shame, although I do recognise that the most vivid writing of all is in 'What Katy Did', where the magical innocence of childhood is captured absolutely. Clover's development into adulthood, travels to Colorado and falling in love are delightful in their different way, however, and it was lovely to know exactly what happened to Katy's little sister after she herself had grown up and left home.
Thank you so much for reading this first instalment of 'Why Not Wednesday', an occasional series of posts about unusual books I've encountered unexpectedly and which I hope readers of John C Adams Reviews will find intriguing.
Please comment below if you've enjoyed this review and have some thoughts to share about other books you'd recommend under 'Why Not Wednesday'.