Thursday, January 6, 2011

Grace Harlowe's Third Year at Overton College

Grace Harlowe's Third Year at Overton College was published in 1914.  The book begins with Grace and her friends enjoying one last night together in their hometown before heading back to college.  The entire chapter bored me, as I did not care for all the nonsensical banter that I did not find funny or interesting at all.  That was what made it easy for me to depart from Grace Harlowe and read Rick Riordan.

The story gets better with the second chapter, which really should have been the first chapter.  Upon the girls' return to Overton College, they become acquainted with Kathleen West, who is an incoming freshman.  Kathleen has worked for a newspaper for a few years in order to save money for college.  Grace and her friends dislike Kathleen's relentless reporter-like personality.  Kathleen has an unfortunate habit of forcing her company on the other girls. 

During a meeting of the Semper Fidelis club, which was formed to help Overton College girls who are having trouble making ends meet, the girls plan on having a bazaar to raise money for their purpose.   Unknown to them, Kathleen West eavesdrops from outside Grace's door.  Kathleen overhears a few girls make critical statements of her. Kathleen writes a note to the dean in an attempt to prevent the bazaar from being held.  Of course, Kathleen's attempt fails, but now Grace knows that the club has an enemy.  As usual, Grace acts like she does not know who the enemy is, although she really ought to know.

Kathleen West reminds me of Beverly Gray's rival reporter, Kay Merrill.  Not only that, but the name Kathleen keeps reminding me of one of Beverly's acquaintances who also is named Kathleen.

While the "mean girl who hates Grace" is a theme that is repeated in every Grace Harlowe book, I like the fresh turn that it takes in this book.  Kathleen skulks around spying on everyone in an attempt to get a scoop for her newspaper.  At one point, Grace has to convince Kathleen not to publish some information that needs to remain confidential.  Here is a short excerpt from that confrontation which occurs on page 146.
Kathleen West laughed disagreeably.  "That is not my affair.  I have agreed to furnish my paper with snappy college news.  This makes a good story.  To supply my paper with good stories is my first business."

"Pardon me," retorted Grace scornfully, "I should imagine that loyalty to one's self and one's college constituted an Overton girl's first business."

"I can't see that this particular story has anything to do with being loyal to Overton," sneered Kathleen.  "As for being loyal to myself, that is for me to judge.  Who dares say I am disloyal?"

"Nothing very daring about that," drawled Elfreda.  "I say so."

"You," stormed Kathleen.  "Who are you?"

"J. Elfreda Briggs," murmured the stout girl sweetly.

Even though Kathleen is partly motivated out of revenge, she also strikes out against Grace in an effort to get a good scoop.  I like that more is going on than a mean girl being mean just to be mean.  This mean girl is doing it for money and personal glory as well.  She is also ruthless.  From pages 150-151:

"Once and for all I want you to understand that college ideals and traditions are not worrying me.  I did not come to Overton to moon.  I am only using college as a means to an end.  What you offered me was a fair exchange.  As you know a great deal too much about certain things, it is just as well to be on the safe side.  I dare say I shall stumble on something else in the news line just as good as the charity dinner stunt."

At the close of this story, the conflict with Kathleen is unresolved, so the next story will have Kathleen causing more problems.


Lenora said...

Kathleen does sound like an interesting villain. More interesting than the protagonist, really. It does raise the point that in the teens, most girls were just going for the fun of it, more or less, rather than as preparation for a career. I like the idea of a hardboiled character who rolls her eyes at the college girls' fluff and nonsense and gets her job done.

beautifulshell said...

I like how Elfreda emerges in this one and takes more initiative, rather than just riding along on Grace's coattails. Snarky Elfreda is the best!