|Sweet Valley Saga Magna Edition: The Wakefields of Sweet Valley (Part Two)
||[Oct. 28th, 2007|02:05 pm]
Elizabeth and Jessica are better than you.
|[||Tags|||||alice wakefield, boyfriend stealing, dead boyfriend alert, instant celebrity status, magna edition, major continuity errors, ned wakefield, recapper: daniellafromage, strange view of europe, twin switch, underage drinking||]|
Previously on The Wakefields of Sweet Valley: After escaping from the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Jessamyn Watson, former circus bareback rider, gave birth to a set of twins.
1925. Seventeen-year-old Samantha is enamoured with Clara Bow, and emulates her by bathing in perfume. Oh, God. I bet everyone stands a good two feet away from her whenever she walks into a room. Also: I might well be an idiot, but I find the names Amanda and Samantha similar enough to be confusing, so I'm going to refer to Samantha as Sam from this point onwards. All those darn a's. Amanda is basically Liz; Sam is basically Jessica. Anyway. One of the great things about this book is all the clothing descriptions, so sadly lacking in most of the other Sweet Valleys. Here are the girls:
Amanda pulled her favourite cloche hat on over her new bob and made sure both her dangling pendant earrings were clipped in place. The long string of matching beads around her neck swung back and forth as she walked into the dining room...
Samantha made her entrance in a cloud of perfume, her buckle-toed pumps clicking against the polished wood floor. Where Amanda wore one string of beads, her twin had on several...
"Amanda's wearing the same dress in a different colour, in case you hadn't noticed," said Samantha.
Amanda felt her father's eyes on her. "Hmm. Well, that's true, but Amanda's dress isn't nearly so short, and her heels aren't as high. And she's not wearing lipstick that could stop auto traffic."
Fancy! Although considering that they're just coming down for breakfast, they both sound a little too dressed up. The twins and their parents all gather round to read a letter from Harry, the twins' brother, who's away at university. He's top in Latin and he made the tennis team, so he's thrilled. Even better, a jazz club has come to the nearest town, and he visits every weekend. "Cat's pajamas!" exclaims Sam. Harry goes on to tell his family all about Ted Wakefield, his roommate, who's into jazz, the latest dances, and motion pictures, and has also published several articles and short stories. Harry wants to take Ted to the jazz club so that he can "Charleston all night". I love this entire section of this book. It's like Hemingway and Fitzgerald threw up all over it. Ted is, of course, Theodore Wakefield's grandson, although none of the other characters in this book make the connection. Anyway, Harry sends a picture of Ted Wakefield along with the letter. Ted is a real sheik. Sam is thrilled.
Amanda and Sam go to a jazz club. Sam insults an ex of hers, Kevin Hughes, a "cheap hood" who's "running hooch". Confession: I got a little carried away while reading this section and I ended up sending my friend an enthusiastic email in which I used the phrases "hip to the jive", "giggle water", and "dumb Dora". As of yet, I have not had a reply. Kevin Hughes wants Sam to go to a speakeasy with him, but she refuses. "Clara Bow wouldn't do it!" she thinks. I hate to break it to Sam, but Clara Bow totally would. Clara Bow would be at the speakeasy already, in fact, on her third gin and tonic.
Sam writes Harry a letter, wherein she fangirls Bessie Smith (whoo!), and sends him a picture of herself looking like Clara Bow, instructing him to deliver it to Ted Wakefield. It does the trick: he wants to meet her. Sam wants to talk about films with him; Amanda is excited about the prospect of discussing literature with him. Amanda thinks about how cute Ted is. Oh, this is going to end well.
The twins meet up with Harry and Ted at a roadhouse, where they drink cocktails and listen to jazz music. I am so jealous of these fictional characters, I cannot even tell you. I mean, obviously I can go to a jazz club and emulate them, but I bet I couldn't get my friends to dress up as flappers along with me. I need new friends. Friends who reply to my emails. Ted introduces them to "C.C. Earl, King of the Trumpet". You just wait until I tell Louis Armstrong about this. He'll be pissed. Ted and the twins gossip about their respective grandparents, as you do, little realising that Alice Larson and Theodore Wakefield knew each other.
Back at home, the sisters squeal over Ted. He's "darb, the berries, the bee's knees", claims Sam. Okay, in my head he totally looks like Gary Cooper. Also, raise your hand if you had no idea what any of those terms meant when you were ten and read this book for the first time. I remember being confused but fascinated.
Amanda can't sleep so she goes downstairs and writes some poetry. Ted joins her, and they flirt awkwardly. She shows him her poetry, and I shall produce her opus in its entirety:
Sheets of rain
shimmering, slicing through the sky,
splashing in silver streams
at my feet,
in nature's embrace.
Let's face it: she's no Langston Hughes. Ted loves it, though, and they make out. This really angered me when I was ten, because I so badly wanted Ted to marry Sam. Anyway, he gives her his class ring and they agree to keep their relationship a secret because...I don't know why. They're afraid of upsetting Sam? Because it totally won't upset her more when they eventually tell her the truth after Sam's spent several months thinking that Ted likes her as much as she likes him? I don't know. Ted goes back to college but promises to write to Amanda. Amanda angsts.
Anyway, Sam finds out about the romance pretty much straight away after she finds Ted's letters. One begins, Dear Amanda, Your letters are exquisite agony, and I'm sorry, but I see the words "exquisite agony" and all I can think of is Stephen Fry doing his impression of Vincent Price. This sends Sam over the edge and plans to destroy the pair of them, and, as we all know from A Night To Remember, revenge is a dish best served with cheap liquor.
Sam marches off to the speakeasy in search of her "cheap hood" ex, Kevin Hughes. The speakeasy, the Cellar Door, is basically Kelly's and Kevin Hughes is basically Rick Andover. I can't help but feel that the one thing that would improve this book is if Kevin Hughes had a cheesy nickname, like Kevin the Kat or Kevin "Knuckleduster" Hughes. Anyway, Sam convinces him to go along with a scheme that will break apart Amanda and Ted. As Grandma Alice would say, "Oh, nu! Dun't du it, Sem! Bork Bork Bork!"
Amanda realises that Sam has found out about her relationship with Ted, so she gives her a poem she wrote about the two of them. Sadly, we don't get to read this particular literary gem. Clearly writing one poem tired the ghost-writer out. Sam thinks the poem is dumb. Heh.
That night, Sam dresses up as Amanda and sneaks into Ted's room, and pretends to be her twin. She convinces him to drive to the jazz club with her, claiming that C.C. Earl wanted to speak to him, but on their way there they get stopped by the "Feds", who want to look in Ted's trunk. They claim to have been tipped off by "Amanda", and when they open it up, they find several crates of bootleg liquor - planted by Sam, of course, and supplied by Kevin Hughes. Sam, still pretending to be Amanda, tells Ted that she called the police for his own good, and he's dragged away, heartbroken. Oh, Samantha, Samantha, Samantha. What will you think of next?
Amanda finds out what Sam has done almost straight away, of course, and angrily confronts her at home. Sam says, "The way I see it is that you hurt me and I hurt you. We're even. It's over. Now maybe we can go back to the way things were before." Huh. Clearly sociopathy runs in the family. Amanda rightly tells Sam that she never wants to speak to her again.
Sam leaves for Hollywood, still not reconciled with her sister, and is discovered within like five minutes. If only everyone else could be so lucky. She gets married to a journalist and spends all her time hanging out with Samuel Goldwyn at the Brown Derby. Oh, Golden Era Hollywood, I love you so hard. This is Sam's wedding garb:
She wore a sleeveless, straight-bodiced, embroidered gown that flared softly at the bottom into folds of gossamer silk. She had on a simple white cap with a fringe or gauzy veil and long white gloves; in her hand she carried a single white rose.
I have to admit it: I dig it a lot. Anyway, Amanda reads a newspaper which tells her: [Sam] won't be fitting into her perfect size-six dress for much longer. Heh. Nothing changes. Although, doesn't that mean that Sam is tiny by 1920s standards? Where are the boob shots in her films?
1927. Sam dies in childbirth. I don't know if we're meant to draw a moral from it, but okay. She reconciles with Amanda on her deathbed and leaves custody of her baby daughter Marjorie to her. It just occurred to me: wouldn't Jessica make a big deal out of the fact that her great-grandmother was a famous movie star? I also feel cheated out of a book where the Wakefields spend their time fending off the attentions of an obsessive silent movie fan who's writing a book about 1920s starlets. Well, I'd read it.
1935. Amanda, Marjorie, and Sam's husband are all living in Sweet Valley. You guys, we made it! Sam's husband says that he's going away to France and taking Marjorie with him. Considering that there were rumours of war in Europe as early as 1933, I think that it's pretty stupid of him to take his daughter there, but okay. In New York, eight-year-old Marjorie steals food to give to the poor people living down by the docks. God, that's not patronising at all.
1940. Marjorie and her father, who I guess has been mentioned so often by now that he deserves a name, Jack, are living in Val-le-Doux in France. I'm going to leave you guys to figure out that cute little "joke". France is occupied and Jack offers to send Marjorie home to California. Wait, can he do that? I would have assumed that French nationals couldn't travel across boarders without permission during the Nazi occupation, but it might have been different for ex-pats. It doesn't matter, though, because Marjorie wants to stay.
1941. America enters the war and Jack is kidnapped by the Germans, who have also stolen the famous painting The Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies. (Ten house points to anyone who gets that reference!) Anyway, the Nazis want to arrest Marjorie as well. Marjorie cries.
Marjorie's friends stow her away in an attic with Sophy Berg, a Jewish girl who has lost her parents. Sophy tells Marjorie all about the Resistance, particularly Jacques, her older brother who is apparently a core member at the ripe old age of seventeen. The French are so fucked. Marjorie and and Sophy live in the attic for the next year, pretending that their dry bread is delicious croissants and their dingy surroundings are a sunny beach. Then that mean old Miss Minchin bursts in and demands that they get on with their work and quit gossiping about diamond mines! Wait, wrong story. Sick and tired of pretending, Marjorie decides to sign up with the Resistance. Dude, it's not like joining the cheerleading squad.
Although because this is the Sweet Valley universe, maybe it is. Marjorie meets Jacques and he's a total hottie. He sets her up as a radio operator, sending coded messages to the rest of Europe and America. He's very impressed with her work, especially as she's a beginner. "Oh, I was on the espionage team for a few years in middle school," is what she doesn't say, flipping her hair casually. Then they make out. I like how Marjorie is a Master spy at the age of fifteen.
Tragedy strikes when Sophy is captured! Marjorie offers to take her place, which shows that she hasn't learnt much about spying. I mean, of the two of them, Marjorie is the one who knows the code the Allies are using to send messages. It sucks for Sophy and all, but she's the less-valuable prisoner. Also, what's to stop the Nazis just imprisoning Marjorie alongside Sophy when she walks up to them and offers an exchange? Jacques pretty much says this, and talks a collaborator into letting Sophy go, and getting her papers which allow her to travel to Spain.
Then Jaques is shot by the Nazis at a train station. Bummer. Sophy gives Marjorie her travel papers to allow her to escape to Spain, and from Spain to America. Marjorie reluctantly agrees, but she thinks sadly to herself, "She was going home, but her heart would stay here. Buried with Jaques. Forever."
1949. Marjorie is getting married to some guy called Charles Robertson. Heh. You know, that's the second time in this book that the ghost-writer has used the joke of a girl vowing to never love again and then cutting quickly to the next chapter where she's getting married to her new boyfriend. And yet it amused me just as much the second time as it did the first.
At the wedding we see a few old friends: Jessamyn and Taylor are there. Jessamyn is seventy-three! Amanda's there as well, as is her brother Harry and his family. Jack, Marjorie's father is there as well, although we aren't told how he escaped from Nazi captivity, which I feel is a failing on the part of the ghost-writer. Interestingly, Marjorie doesn't spare a thought for dead Sam and her twin-switchin', bootleggin', movie starrin' ways.
1962. Finally a character we all know: it's Alice Wakefield! Except she's not married yet. Her name's Alice Robertson, and she has two sisters, Nancy and Laura. Continuity? In my Sweet Valley book? The sisters start to draw a family tree, helped by Marjorie, their mother. Marjorie tells them all about Possibly Cannibalised Steven, the older brother of Jessamyn and Elisabeth who died of scarlet fever, and then Alice totally spoils Little Women for everyone who hasn't read it yet. Dude, not cool!
Late 1960s. Alice is at college. I like how the ghost-writer is starting to be shifty about dates and ages. This timeline screws up R is for Revenge, though, anyway, which lovingly detailed Alice's high school years in the 1970s. Also, Alice is a filthy hippie at the University of Southern California, rather than president of her sorority at SVU. Oh, ghost-writer. I give you one compliment about your continuity skills and you go and blow your wad all over the rest of the book, and now I'm left here feeling all dirty and ashamed and I just know that Lila Fowler is going to spread rumours about me tomorrow morning.
Anyway. Hank Patman is chasing after Alice. His characterisation is basically the same as Bruce's. It's not clear if he genuinely likes Alice or if he's just after some Mama Wakefield booty, but whatever. He compliments her artistic skills - he says her style is similar to that of Degas, which makes me love Alice a little bit - but she won't go out with him because he's obnoxious and self-obsessed. Also, he is the Man.
Alice's friends stage a sit-in on behalf of a professor who was fired for teaching civil rights. Suddenly a helicopter flies overhead and drops down potato salad, cookies, and other goodies to the hungry students. The happy hippies cheer! I bet they'd be even happier if a few "special brownies" had dropped down as well. A voice booms from the skies - "A voice from heaven!" some stoner exclaims - announcing that he's going to keep dropping food down to them until their demands are met. It's Hank! Suddenly, Alice has a crush. Hank takes her out on a date and they eat black caviar. Man, he's a lot smoother than his son. I bet Hank doesn't even know what a paper cup looks like.
Just as the Amanda/Sam chapters were filled with flapper slang, the Alice chapters are filled with hippie slang. Love this book and its determination to stick to broad stereotypes of each era. Anyway, Hank and Alice date for an entire semester, during which time Hank grows his hair long, "traded in his establishment clothes for a pair of patched bell-bottoms and a groovy vest", and dances to the song Good Lovin'. Please please please God let there be photographic evidence in order to traumatise Bruce. Hank proposes to Alice and she accepts because she's "overwhelmed by music and love".
Unfortunately, Hank kind of sucks as a fiancé, and almost immediately starts running about with a brunette in a bikini. Alice angrily swims out as far as she can into the ocean. I don't know. She nearly drowns. Remember right at the beginning of the book when Alice Larson is saved from drowning by Theodore Wakefield? You guessed it, guys: Alice Robertson is saved by Ned Wakefield. They stare into each other's eyes and realise that they are Meant 2B. Hank shoos him away, though, and takes Alice off to a party.
Ned and Alice bump into each other on campus a couple of times, and they stare at each other sadly. I don't know why Alice doesn't just break off her engagement to Hank if she doesn't feel confident about it, especially as she's only about nineteen. This is Alice's wedding dress:
A pearl-studded gown fell in voluminous folds around her ankles, lengthening into a small train at the back. Her headpiece was sewn with matching pearls and tiny flowers. She tried to get used to balancing on the tall, narrow heels of her white satin shoes.
Not bad, I guess, although Sam's 1920s wedding outfit was much cooler.
On the day of the wedding, Alice, fully-dressed in the above costume, eavesdrops on Hank and his friends. Hank says that the helicopter stunt he pulled was in order to make him into a celebrity on campus, rather than because he really supported Alice's cause. Alice realises that she can't marry him and takes him to one side to tell him so. He blows up at her and orders her away.
Alice runs to Ned's house, still dressed in her wedding gown. They make out, with Blowin' In The Wind is playing in the background. I have to say, I secretly love this. It's one of those iconic Sweet Valley moments - along with Olivia dying, Margo attacking Liz on New Year's Eve, Liz riding on the back of Todd's motorcycle - that everyone with an interest in the series knows about. It's as cheesy as Hell and kind of ripped from The Graduate, but goddamnit, it works.
And presumably at some point after this, they get married. You know, I always wondered if Alice's great-aunt Amanda and Ned's grandfather Ted ever met up at Ned and Alice's wedding. I mean, there's nothing to indicate that either of them died, and Amanda would be around seventy at the time of the wedding, with Ted not being much older. But we don't get to see the wedding at all, so I guess we won't ever know if there's a septuagenarian reconciliation or not.
A number of years later. Ned, Alice, and two-year-old Steven all sit at home, holding the new-born twins, Elizabeth and Jessica. They're fast asleep, with no indication that one day the two of them will wreak havoc on Sweet Valley. And with that, the story closes, after a truly epic 346 pages.
Oh, ghost-writer. You and I, we've been on a journey together. Sometimes I've hated you for your perpetuation of racial stereotypes. Sometimes I've sighed at your lack of historical knowledge. But most of the time...I've loved you. I love you for the liberal use of flapper slang, for Elisabeth and Tom making out, for Hank Patman's bell-bottoms, for both of the "I'll never love again!"/"I'm marrying my new boyfriend!" chapter breaks, for the espionage, for Swedish Alice, for Jessamyn having sex right before the earthquake, and so much more. I love you, ghost-writer. I want a ship's captain to marry us right away.
Wait, what's that? You've spiked my punch with magical vodka and are even now high-tailing it to San Francisco with Jeffrey French, a flask of bourbon, and the crown for the Miss Teen Sweet Valley pageant? Damn you, ghost-writer! Damn yooooooooouuuuuuuuuu!