Expresses Righteous Indignation
In Which Aunt Book Chastises Authors
Whose Inconsistency Spoils Good Books
There is a really marvelous series of books by Jane
Duncan about a family named Cameron: Camerons on the
Train (1963), Camerons on the
Hills (1963), Camerons at the
Castle (1964), Camerons Calling
The eldest Cameron, and narrator of the books, is
Shona, followed by her brothers Neil, Donald, and Iain, or Nink, who is
Aunt Book recommends the books, especially Camerons at the
Castle and Camerons Calling,
but she has a major complaint:
the author selectively aged her characters in a way that drives Aunt
Book quite batty. The inconsistency is annoying; and, as Aunt Book
will describe later, in at least one instance it affects the
characterization, as well.
Train is set during
the Christmas holidays.
Shona is 13, Neil 10, Donald 6,
This is the first time the
children have traveled alone by train to their aunt's.
Hills is set during
Shona 13 1/2, Neil 11 "and a bit,
that made him nearly 12," Donald 7
Presumably it is the Easter
following the first book; but Shona writes, "When we were younger,
Father, Mother and our little brother Iain used to come too, but now
they come only for the long holidays in the summer, and at Christmas
and Easter we three travel up to Aunt's by ourselves on the
train. I wrote a story about the very first time we travelled on
the train by ourselves, when we had a very exciting time, but the
journeys since then have been very ordinary and, indeed, quite
dull. Things often become dull when you become used to
them." So just when have they been making all these trips that
have become so dull and ordinary, if Shona has aged only 6
months? Of course, everybody else has aged a year. Perhaps
Shona is supposed to be 14 1/2, but that is not what the book says.
is set during the summer holidays and starts in July.
Shona is 14 years 8 months, Neil
nearly 13, Donald 8, Nink 5
So - Everyone has aged 1 year
this time, which is consistent (if you ignore the problem of Shona's
age last time).
Aunt and all four children go to Castle Vannich. Somerled
Macdonald, the Macdonald of Vannich, is, in order to save it, opening
Castle Vannich as a hotel. He is 21 (Tall. Gorgeous.
Charming. Pardon Aunt Book a moment while she fetches her
smelling salts so as not to swoon). The book is told by Shona in
the first person, so she never comes out and says she has a crush on
him, but one would have to be quite startlingly clueless not to figure
it out (and one can't blame her in the least). The whole thing is
Fraught with Possibilities. Being a sucker for romance, Aunt Book
was delighted to find that the next book, Camerons Calling,
also featured Somerled.
is set during the summer holidays.
Shona is nearly 16, Neil is 14,
Donald 9, Iain 6. Aging is a bit wobbly - shouldn't Neil be "nearly
14?" Still, not too bad.
But, as Aunt Book read, she
became somewhat cranky. Suddenly, Somerled is 25. That
would be annoying enough, but making him that much older also spoils
his character a bit. In Calling,
he goes crazy about a spoiled, loathsome, but very pretty singer, and
acts like an idiot. Which is understandable if he's 21, but by 25
he should have a bit more sense, at least, and so it ends up making him
seem a less mature and admirable character. And for those who
would argue that 25 isn't that much more mature when it comes to a man
making a fool of himself over a pretty girl, some of the other things
Somerled does, unrelated to the girl, are also somewhat immature.
(A 21-year-old acting like a 21-year-old is fine. A 25-year-old acting
like a 21-year-old is not). Also, in the course of the book he
also shows some jealousy that Shona seems to be getting along rather
well with a boy her own age; which again would be fine if he is 21 but
is bordering on creepy if he is 25.
set during the Easter holidays.
Shona is 16, Neil 14, Donald 10,
Iain 7. So this is, presumably, the next Easter. In other words, about
20 months after Castle
began, and maybe 8 months after Calling.
The Camerons were all thrilled to be going to Castle Vannich again in Calling.
Now, we get: "When Neil, Donald and I were younger we thought
that Aunt and Jennyville and Castle Vannich and Angus and Somerled were
the best people and places in the world. . . Some years ago, we all got
together and turned Castle Vannich into a luxury hotel. All this
was very exciting and, at that time, as I have said, Neil, Donald and I
thought we would never want to spend our holidays anywhere except at
Castle Vannich . . . but it is rather sad how one grows out of things.
. . . And we had even grown out of Castle Vannich a bit."
And, regarding Somerled:
"although he is nearly thirty and stands six feet two, [he] behaves
like an overgrown schoolboy most of the time, according to Aunt."
Aunt Book was frothing at the
mouth. Thirty! And all the Possibilities completely gone
(which, if he is 30, makes sense; but he is NOT!)
There is barely anything made of his first appearance. And Aunt
Book does not think he is acting like a 30-year-old, either. The
whole flavor of the books has changed.
Aunt Book was expounding a theory to a friend.
Duncan (a pseudonym) based the children in the books on her own niece
and nephews - she even used their names. Aunt Book
theorizes that Miss Duncan got mad at the real Shona, and decided that
Shona didn't deserve Somerled.
Or perhaps Duncan decided that Somerled, or whoever
it was upon whom she based the character, wasn't good enough for Shona.
(Hard to believe; he's wonderful, at least in Castle,
and if you assume he's still only 22 or so in Ahoy).
Of course, another possibility is that Shona
rebelled against it. Perhaps she didn't like the character of
Somerled. Perhaps her real-life boyfriend was 5'3", dark-haired,
weedy, and charmless, and didn't like the inevitable "You have to be
kidding!" when he was introduced to people who had read the books.
Whatever. If Duncan didn't want to develop the
embryonic romance any further, Aunt Book supposes (very grudgingly)
that was her prerogative. (It wasn't, actually, but Aunt Book is
prepared be gracious about it). BUT PLAYING MERRY
MAYHEM WITH AGES ISN'T FAIR!!!!!
That should be the first thing that authors have to
do when they become authors: Sign a pledge that says, "I will not drive
my readers loopy by being shamelessly inconsistent."
Meanwhile, Aunt Book will mentally rewrite the parts
of these books that offend her.
of Righteous Indignation
Return to Aunt Book's
Ask Aunt Book
Read the list of books Aunt Book has identified
Help with books Aunt Book can't identify
Aunt Book's recommendations