The Classics Club has decided to spin its wheel for the 18th time, the 2nd for Cleopatra Loves books and so I hesitantly checked out the result. Not because I have any books on the list I created that I’m really dreading but because I’m not quite sure when I’m going to fit in a book to August’s already bursting schedule and the book must be read, and reviewed by 31 August 2018.
The result came through and it is number 9 which for me means that I am to read The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
I’m going to do a little Q&A about the book so first things first and most importantly:
How many pages long is The Shuttle?
Over 500 and according to my kindle it is about 9 1/2 hours worth of reading time – so possibly not the best choice for August!
Why did you choose to add this book to your The Classics Club list of 50 books?
I have pondered about all those authors I repeatedly sought out as a child and wondered what books, if any they had written for adults, as a result when I came to draw up my list I decided to include a small selection of these to read over the next 5 years.
Do you own a copy of the book?
Yes, my copy for kindle was purchased in December 2013 so it has been at the back of my mind to read it for some time. At least the spin result didn’t mean I had to purchase a new book too!
What other books by this author have you read?
I was a huge reader of classic children stories. I was the child in the wider family who was known as ‘the bookworm’ and as a consequence got given many beautiful copies of books for birthdays and Christmas as well as having access to the copies my mother had read as a child.
I had a particularly lovely book with a story at each end with Little Lord Fauntleroy at one end and The Little Princess at the other. complete with what I felt essential as a child (and still do), a ribbon bookmark! I also had a copy of The Secret Garden, one of my favourite books of all time and I can still remember lying down to sleep imagining I was Mary – sadly, less green fingers than mine are rarely seen!
What’s The Shuttle about?
An American heiresses marrying English aristocrats; by extension it is about the effect of American energy, dynamism and affluence on an effete and impoverished English ruling class. Sir Nigel Anstruthers crosses the Atlantic to look for a rich wife and returns with the daughter of an American millionaire, Rosalie Vanderpoel.
He turns out to be a bully, a miser and a philanderer and virtually imprisons his wife in the house. Only when Rosalie’s sister Bettina is grown up does it occur to her and her father that some sort of rescue expedition should take place. And the beautiful, kind and dynamic Bettina leaves for Europe to try and find out why Rosalie has, inexplicably, chosen to lose touch with her family.
In the process she engages in a psychological war with Sir Nigel; meets and falls in love with another Englishman; and starts to use the Vanderpoel money to modernise ‘Stornham Court’. Persephone Books
When was The Shuttle first published?
In 1907 so a couple of years after The Little Princess and before The Secret Garden although apparently The Shuttle and The Secret Garden used Great Maytham Hall near Rolvenden, Kent, as inspiration for the setting.
Tell me a bit about Frances Hodgson Burnett?
Frances Eliza Hodgson was born at 141 York Street, Cheetham Manchester on 24 November 1849, one of five children born to an Ironmonger who owned a business and his well-to-do wife. Sadly her father died of a stroke in 1853 and Frances’s mother took over the running of the business. The family emigrated to America in 1865 settling near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Soon after her early scribblings were transformed into ‘proper’ writing and she had her first story published in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1868. Funds from her writing meant that in 1872 she was able to fund her first trip back to the UK and then returned to Tennessee to marry Swann Burnett. The couple had two children and Frances continued writing.
In 1884 publication of Little Lord Fauntleroy secured her reputation as a writer and in 1887 she travelled to England for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and made yearly trips thereafter. In 1890 her eldest son died of consumption.
By the mid 1890s her home was Maytham Hall and in 1898 she was divorced from Swann by seemingly mutual agreement. She was to marry again to a man ten years her junior, it wasn’t a happy union and it was during this time she wrote The Shuttle. She was to divorce fairly swiftly afterwards and returned to the United States in 1907. She died on 29 October 1924 aged 74.
The Shuttle was republished by Persephone Press in 2007 bringing this ‘lost’ story to a new generation of readers.
What did you get fellow Classic Club Spinners?
Looking forward to everyone’s views on whether I should be celebrating my success or perhaps this book missed the mark where you’re concerned?