Book Review: Betsy and the Great World
Author: Maud Hart Lovelace
Book Review: Sylvie Bower
Have you ever smelled the sweet lazy air of Italy? I haven’t, but reading Betsy and the Great World, a realistic fiction, by Maud Hart Lovelace painted elaborately detailed scenes swarming with colors, sounds, and even smells. This book is part of a 10-book series that I had trouble putting down. I’ve never cried after a book, but reading this fantastic, gripping series had me weeping partly because of the story and partly over the fact that I had finished it. This book series was mainly written to keep the author’s memories alive. This book series is set in Deep Valley, Minnesota. It is told in the romantic voice of Betsy Ray describing her world. In this particular book, Betsy has left her home and set off to explore the great world.
On the first page, you find yourself in one of the harbors of Boston about to set off on the S.S. Columbia. It’s 1914 and Betsy Ray has just spent a year of recovery after appendicitis. She names it the “lost year”. However, this time spent in California has been just the thing to kick-start her writing career, but she is also at a disadvantage. She’s a year behind all of her friends and despite having a sweetheart; she foolishly flirts with handsome Bob Barhydt. Her beau, Joe Willard, who recently got a ticket out of their beloved University and into Harvard, manages to get his hands on a yearbook full of pictures of Betsy and Bob. After this, their daily correspondence comes to a stop. Mr. Ray, Betsy’s father, finds himself agreeing to a year abroad to help her cope.
Upon boarding the ship, Betsy catches a glimpse of an authoress, Mrs. Main-Wittaker traveling to Europe to research a new book. This gets her attention, but as she peers into the crowd of reporters she realizes one is strangely familiar. Despite his newly grown mustache, it is most certainly her ex-beau, Joe Willard. This one look has her emotions explode over her trip. Despite her love of music and dance, she spends most of the dances in bed. Her one chance of happiness on the ship: Mr. ‘O Farrell turns out to be a huge mistake. As she travels to Germany, Italy, France, and England she is washed away by a sea of newly found feelings. Will falling in love mend her broken heart?
Leaving the protective ship, she travels to Germany. Even her high school German class won’t prepare her for the challenge of not speaking the language. Fortunately, her new friends, Tilda, Helena Von Wandersee, and Hannie remind her of their native dialect. In Germany, she ends up having a lot of adventures. Who could forget the time she had to take a bath in an off limits soldiers tub due to the lack of bathtubs! Unfortunately, Betsy has to keep moving. She now finds herself in the romantic city of Venice, Italy. Of course, as soon as she arrives a striking Italian young man falls head over heels in love with her. But if he pops the matrimony question, Betsy will have a big question to ask herself as well. Should she overcome her stubbornness and reunite with Joe or fall in love with someone else?
In some ways, Betsy is my favorite character. I love to read about her joy as well as her dilemmas. “Not all married men are middle aged and fatherly.” Betsy’s voice is so funny and witty. In this line, she’s talking to her crush, Mr. ‘O Farrell. She had said this because he hadn’t told her he was married. Her life is like music. Like a musical rest, her life can stop in challenging times and like "Allegro", sometimes it’s quick and happy. Betsy is a person who loves to write and tell stories. Betsy can turn anything into a tale of overcoming something or a romance. The part I like best about her is that even though she can be silly and immature with her friends, in some situations she is very sophisticated.
Reading Maud Hart Lovelace’s work takes me everywhere, because it is so descriptive. For example, she described, “They were the vivid green of grass after rain, divided off like a checkerboard by darker green hedges.” Just listening to this I can see the enchanted island of St. Michael’s she was describing. I could never think of comparing grass after rain to a checkerboard. She really knows how to use figurative language in a way that gets readers hooked. Maud’s descriptions are part of the reasons I loved these books. I actually feel like I’m a character in the book.
After reading this series, I discovered that the books were based on the writer’s life. The main theme of this book is to preserve the author’s memories. She saw herself as Betsy, the main character. Her best friends Bick and Midge were the inspiration for Tacy and Tib. Joe Willard, Betsy’s sweetheart, was really Delos, Maud’s husband. The beloved Deep Valley was based on Mankato, Maud’s childhood home. Now that I think about it, writing your memories in a book is a good way to preserve them. If I were the author, writing a book based on my life would be my first choice.
Betsy and all of her new friends from all over Europe plus her friends and family in Deep Valley form a charming story of the author’s past filled with challenges and pleasure. If you enjoy realistic fiction or if you want to know what happens, I highly recommend you read this and all the other books in the series!
This poem is based on the book, Betsy and the Great World, a realistic fiction by Maud Hart Lovelace. In this book, Betsy Ray has left her home, Deep Valley, to explore the great world. I wrote this poem in the voice of Betsy, describing her home and two places she has visited during her adventure.
Where My Heart Is
by: Sylvie B.
Where my heart is.
Slough, pronounced sloo, according to Emily.
Great hummocks of grass, a social parlor,
The ribbets of the frogs, the music of the birds.
This town, protected by an army of trees.
Our hills, we hold them as an open fan.
Has always been friendly,
With residential streets and wide, shady lawns,
Called home for 18 years.
It holds the story of my memories.
Houses are straight out of a picture book.
Everything is near,
Its streets, wide and clean.
This town is fat of music and art,
Deep inside, it’s theatric,
Old women sweeping the streets
The sun, catching the light of a policemen’s hat, swarming the city.
Full of squares and handsome avenues,
I might have left my heart there.
At dusk, moonlight falls on to the snowy palaces.
Hypnotized by the warm, sweet, lazy air,
And by entering this crystalline life.
The island of Fusina,
Sea was the owner, but poppies sprinkled the meadows.
According to Byron, Venice seemed to come from a stroke of an enchanter’s wand,
He was right.
It’s a place of time travel,
Old homes stained to mellow hues,
Despite all of these mystical lands I so love,
Only one truly holds my heart.
Dear Aunt Ruth,
How are you? I hope your health is approving. Have you read my article about the Women Suffrage in May? I believe it’s my best news story yet. I got to interview Alice Stone Blackwell, daughter of abolitionist and suffragist Lucy Stone. Enough about that, Aunt Ruth, I desperately need some advice! Back at Harvard, I discovered the “U” yearbook. Inside, there were pictures of Betsy Ray, the girl you met at the emporium, with a fellow named Bob Barhydt. Reading my letters, you must have guessed how much I like her. This made me so jealous and since I’m so competitive I wrote her to talk about Harry’s sister. After this, our correspondence came to an end. About a year after last writing to Betsy, January, I saw her on the S.S. Columbic. Yesterday, I received a letter from her, but of course she didn’t tell me her writing address. The moment I received this letter was the happiest moment of my life. I felt leagues away from her after going to Harvard and I think this ruined us. Despite whatever Betsy might say, I still love her very much. I know that Betsy is and will be the only girl I can talk to about anything and really she’s the only one who understands me. I love her from her cloud of hair down to her beautiful feet. I enjoy her wit and her sense of humor. This letter makes me confident I can do anything, even propose! I hope Betsy still loves me, but if she doesn’t it probably has to do with the stupid comment about Harry’s sister. Aunt Ruth, could you help me decide what to do? If I decide to propose, how will I contact her? Please advice!!
Your devoted nephew,
How fun it is to ride in a train! A few days ago, my closest friends saw me off at the Minneapolis station. Inside my berth, I looked out to the ghostly world rushing past me. We switched trains in Chicago and during the span of two days; letters flew to and from like fat, gossipy birds. I left the familiar lakes and flat land of the Middle West two days ago. Yesterday, we climbed snowy mountains and stopping in towns fat of green-shuttered houses. Today, we arrived in Boston. My day was great for my writing! I took a patriotic expedition and visited Faneuil Hall, the Cradle of Liberty, among others. Today was such a happy day, but somehow I feel like the only person in world. I wish Tacy and Tib were here. It’s just like our tenth birthday. Tacy and Tib turned ten, but they felt no different until I turned ten. I don’t feel any difference between Boston and anywhere else. If they came we would have so many adventures, but they can’t come. Tacy has entered the mysterious and romantic subject of matrimony. Tib is studying in Milwaukee. I didn’t take the trip to Harvard, but I looked up Joe’s number there. I never called; I just waited for a while with my hand on the receiver. After a time, I got up and walked away regretting my decision. Soon after, I had a glorious supper and went to my hotel. I soon drifted into sleep, but early in the morning I woke up and couldn’t sleep a wink. Oh, I’m so lonely!
Oh, I’m so confused! I’m in the wonderful city of Munich all by myself!! Miss Surprise, Julia’s abroad friend, has left me a surprise. She is now studying in Italy, where I just left. In Boston, being alone was tiny compared to here in an international country! I’m supposed to stay here by myself. I miss all my family and friends. I can’t pay attention to all of the music, art, and theatrics because I’m so unhappy. I can’t remember any German and so I can communicate with hardly anyone. I just want to go home!
High school German is not enough to help you in Germany! That’s the lesson I’ve learned over the brief time I’ve been in Germany. I can barely communicate with anyone. High school was such a long time ago and I guess I forgot it. And I was an A student in my class! Luckily, I’ve found some friends who speak it well: Hannie, the housemaid, Tilda, my boarding housemate, and Helena Von Wandersee, a baroness. They’ve been such dears. I’ve learned much by befriending these three. Both Hannie and Helena have terribly romantic stories. Their sweethearts are both soldiers. Oh nein! There’s the supper bell. Got to go!
Cieli per Betsy! How lovely it is to be in love! Yet, I think it is even better to have an Italian fall for you. Marco is such an angelo. He has such a strong, handsome profile. I’ve been learning such excellent Italian from him. And yet, I don’t feel something in it that I had with Joe. Something’s just not here, something I’d hoped was. I can’t find it anywhere in our bond. Maybe falling in love with made a difference in this love. If I hadn’t loved Joe maybe I would love Marco the same way, but I don’t. I hope there’s someway to tell Marco this. I don’t know what to do!
Oh, why didn’t I write to Joe at Julia’s wedding! Stubborn me, I assume. It would have been easier to write then than now. The aspiring authoress, Mrs. Main-Whittaker, has just given me the opportunity to write to him, but I’m not sure if I’m to take it. What if he’s already married his roommate’s sister? Oh, I wish mother had come along. She would help me in this. She’d probably tell me to write to him and ignore my stubborn self. Well, if she gave me this advice in person I’d definitely take it and therefore I should take it now. It’s decided! I will write a casual letter and if he’s married, he’ll show it to her without a blush.