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What Katy Did. I expect it has its fans and I daresay I'd have loved it if I'd first read it as a child but....

93 replies

nkf · 16/04/2008 08:31

...isn't it mawkish and depressing and horrible? In particular, I hated the way that Katy has to be tamed by invalidism into proper femininity

OP posts:
MrsMattie · 16/04/2008 08:33

I hated it as a child and I hate it now!

edam · 16/04/2008 08:34

I read it as a child and loved it. Haven't read it as an adult so can't judge how fair your reading is but wouldn't surprise me given the time it was written.

nkf · 16/04/2008 08:35

MrsM, you were a discerning child. I know that I would have wept buckets over it.

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fishie · 16/04/2008 08:36

i really loved it. much more for the descriptions of their rather incomprehensible life than all that rot about being like saintly cousin helen.

its like little women, all that pickled limes and pilgrims, completely other world to me. adored what katy did at school too, all the detail about their mattresses and stuff.

MrsMattie · 16/04/2008 08:38

I loved Enid Blyton, though . It was only years later that my mum told me she used to change the boy's and girl's names around. I happily believed that Fanny and Bessie had all the adventures, while the boys stayed at home making jam sandwiches. Nothing like a hardcore feminist mum, eh?

bozza · 16/04/2008 08:39

I loved it as a child and read it many times. But do wonder if I would have a similar reaction if I re-read it which I might do when DD is old enough. Don't think it would appeal to DS.

It is quite sad though when books that you thought were fantastic as a child let you down as an adult. Loads of the Roald Dahl books have been like that for me, and the Enchanted Wood.

MrsBadger · 16/04/2008 08:41

the sequels are slightly better, but agree WKD is a prime example of C19th morally-improving fiction.
Still less mawkish and moralistic than Louisa M Alcott though - try 'Rose in Bloom' for an utter vomit-fest. How she deals with the badly-behaved charmer who is wooing the heroine is a masterpiece of Victorian melodrama.

I rather love them though - reading them is like going on a chocolate binge. You can't do it too often, it gets sickly if you push it too far, you know it's bad for you and you have to eat salty or sharp things (Pratchett or Brookmyre) afterwards. But it is delicious at the time!

SmugColditz · 16/04/2008 08:52

I don't think it's very fair to describe a child's book as letting an adult down - that's like watching TikkaBilla and expecting to enjoy it! They weren't written for adults.

Aged nine, I was certainly capable of reading Agatha Christie, could understand the words, follow the plot, yet fount them inutterably dull. Both Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton captured my imagination, as did CS Lewis (another children's author adults love to hate) and Tolkien. I loved the Anne Of Green Gables books, because they were describing a different life, with different moral values and different behavioral patterns.

Would we all be so snooty about these books if they were written about another culture? I doubt it, that would be racist and rather horrible, but in a way the past is another culture.

SmugColditz · 16/04/2008 08:53

What Katy Did, however, was given to me by a loving aunt, as was all my improving Little Women type literature. Most of my books were provided by her. I'm still a frothing feminist.

lulumama · 16/04/2008 08:53

loved it as a child, reread it recently and was, like you , appalled at the lesson in it

be a fiery, feisty girl, but you;ll get your comeuppance and learn to be a nice girl like you ought to be

dejags · 16/04/2008 08:56

I adored WKD and all the subsequent books.

As a matter of fact, I loved many of the non-PC books of today. I certainly will be allowing my kids access to all of the books of my childhood - Enid Blyton, CS Lewis and many more.

nkf · 16/04/2008 09:11

Very amused by your mum's approach, MrsM.

As a child, I loved Enid Blyton and Anne of Green Gables and Little Women and I like re-reading them. And I expect I would have liked WKD if I'd read it as a child.

Perhaps some children's books you can only really enjoy if you've first read them as a child and others work for adults as well. I recently read Swallows and Amazons for the first time and was bored. Again, I think I would have liked it as a child. On the other hand, I also read Elidor by Alan Garner recently and thought he was a master storytelle.

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SSSandy2 · 16/04/2008 09:18

WKD - dd read an abbrieved version of it last year, we just took it in our stride. Maybe the full (orginal) version is worse. There are so many awful books for dc that you plough through for school etc that I didn't find this too bad

Atm we are groaning our way through something called The Mystery of the Rugglesmore Dinasour. Give me WKD any day. Every second page there is vocab I don't find necessary for 7 year olds - reputable, corraborative evidence, sedimentary earth etc etc It's a real bore.

constancereader · 16/04/2008 09:18

Ooh Alan Garner is brilliant, if a little challenging on occasion. Try The Stone Book Quartet, absolutely my favourite book ever.

I haven't read What Katy Did for years, but I suspect I would feel the same way as you do now nkf.

moreJellothanJlo · 16/04/2008 09:18

I loved this book!

bozza · 16/04/2008 09:29

Actually agree that What Katy Did, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton etc are much better than some of the stuff DS brings home from school, and also some of his own choice reading - Horrid Henry, Captn U'pants, Match/Shoot/MOTD annuals etc.

tortoiseSHELL · 16/04/2008 09:37

Oh I love the Katy books. And I don't think that is the message - it's more that the illness teaches her love and compassion for all, specifically Elsie who she has been pretty unkind to. And in the subsequent books it is her 'dignity' and simplicity that holds out, not her 'femininity' - Lily is very 'feminine' but isn't portrayed as one of the 'good' characters. And Rose Red is very much a rogue, but is a 'goodie'.

And in the Little Women books the same things apply - they stay fairly true to their characters, with the faults ironed out a bit, but Jo remains a tomboy throughout. Actually the Little Women books are a little sad I think - they are basically autobiographical with Louisa May Alcott being Jo, but she has changed the story somewhat to being what she thought her father hoped for in her, rather than what she actually was, because she felt not good enough for him. And in real life, Amy (or May in real life) died, and her daughter was brought up by Louisa.

GrapefruitMoon · 16/04/2008 09:37

I loved WKD as a child and read it several times, though I also found some of it hard to comprehend - likewise Little Women - could have done with a preface to both to explain the context!

tortoiseSHELL · 16/04/2008 09:40

And Anne of Green Gables is still fantastic, and I still read it and all the sequels! Ds1 is on the point of reading Swallows and Amazons and I can't wait!

I don't think there's any point in complaining about the 'anti-feminist' message in the books like WKD - that was what culture was like at the time. You might as well complain that Oliver Twist puts street urchins in a bad light, and implies that many people on the streets are pickpockets!

MrsBadger · 16/04/2008 09:40

I was always trying to align the timelines - was WKD at the same time as Little Women? Or later? Were they set in 'the East' while Laura Ingalls Wilder was pioneering 'out West'? And was it while the Secret Garden was happening in England?

tortoiseSHELL · 16/04/2008 09:43

In the later books, Clover goes 'out west' because Phil is ill, and they go out to one of the settlements to try to clear his bronchitis or whatever it was he has, and she marries one of the settlers.

tortoiseSHELL · 16/04/2008 09:43

Little Women is during the War of Independence isn't it?

tortoiseSHELL · 16/04/2008 09:44

Ok, forget that, Little WOmen is during the American Civil War and is set in Boston.

MrsBadger · 16/04/2008 09:45

see why I had trouble as a 9yo with no grasp of US history?

tortoiseSHELL · 16/04/2008 09:46

What Katy did is set at the same time (ie 1860s). Don't know where it is set, other than in Burnet. Little Women is all in MAssachusetts - Boston, and also Concord. The film with Winona Ryder in is interesting I think, as they have tried to weave in some of Louisa May Alcott's real life in Concord into the story.

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