Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Country Cousin

If you were a girl who grew up in the late 60's and your school had a good library, chances are you read a Betty Cavanna.  Ms. Cavanna wrote charming little stories for pre-teens and teens, usually about one girl and her commonplace tribulations and her mini-adventures.  They are gentle well-written reads that are sweet and cheerful. 

A friend gave me Country Cousin as a present and I re-read it each July.  It's a summer story that makes me feel good and although it reminds me of how dignified and uncomplicated life was in 1967, there are lessons in the book and an unexpected muse to guide me even today.

Mindy is a slightly overweight girl who grew up on a farm but gets the chance to live with her older cousin Alix and help manage her well-run, efficient clothing store, called The Country Cousin.  Mindy is adorable and has a bit of a transformation similar to "Sabrina" including a trip to Paris, but it is Alix who has my focus throughout the book. 

Always an adult to her cousin Mindy, I find Alix to be someone to aspire to.  She is serious but can have fun; fashionable but understands the limits of a pretty wardrobe, and as a young widow, does not wallow in her tragedy but uses it as a springboard right into The Country Cousin and the life she wants to have. She is someone I trust when I need to be strong (Alix is turned down numerous times by the French Consulate when she tries to sell her clothing in Paris).  She fulfills her passion by never giving up on her dream.  I love the home she creates for herself after her husband is killed in Vietnam.  It's filled with tasteful décor and fresh touches such as lovely yellow walls and Priscilla curtains.  I admire the way Alix manages her weight and keeps herself slim (tomatoes and hard boiled eggs constitute her tried and true working woman lunch).  She explores the things that make her happy such as concerts and films.  She works hard everyday managing The Country Cousin and is a wonderful role model for Mindy and the sales girls she employs.  She expects all to work hard but lets them enjoy themselves too and offers them discounts and first selections on the clothing she purchases for the shop. And the love of clothes permeates throughout the story.

Of course, you may find Mindy's story more compelling, her coming of age, betwixt and between different loves.  But I turn to Alix for help in keeping myself in check, being a grown up, and not saying Amen! to what the world tells me I should have.  It's a soothing, comfy book that I dip into whenever I need someone to look up to during the lazy hazy days.

P.S.  Did you notice the Pucci inspired dress Mindy wears on the cover?  Italian designer Emilio Pucci was having his heyday in the 1960's, after he outfitted the Braniff Airline stewardesses.  Today, he's having another renaissance as Pucci-like dresses and tunics are everywhere this summer!  Have you bought a Pucci recently?  They are so happy and colorful!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, my gosh! I've haven't thought of Betty Cavanna in years! I too grew up on her novels. I don't remember The Country Cousin; Paintbox Summer was my favorite.