Saturday, March 21, 2015

This is Beverly

This is BeverlyThis is Beverly by Hope Bishop Colket
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What an odd relic. I picked this up maybe 30 years ago because the author was a fellow Philadelphian (more or less). That and because it was used and less than a buck. This book has moved with me 4 times over and now I have finally read it.

From the back cover:

  The Author of This is Beverly

Born in Philadelphia and living her whole life in various suburbs outside that city, Hope Bishop Colket is American from way back in the 1600's. After graduating from Miss Wright's, also in a Philadelphia suburb, she went to the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art for a year, and later, at intervals, worked for some people who made hand-done lampshades.

Mrs. Colket, who began writing when she was seven, believes she has inherited her urge to write from her grandfather, Joseph Hornor Coates, author of several books, and from her mother, who did some writing for children.

She lives in the country with her husband William Walker Colket 2nd and is interested in genetics and heredity and at one time experimented with this subject by means of a hundred guinea pigs which she kept in the cellar! Mrs. Colket has two other interests, gardening and the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphic writing.

This is Beverly is her first published writing.

After reading that, I had very low expectations from this book. Happily though it would seem that Mrs. Colket did not write her biography because the book is actually very well written, with no exclamation points to indicate when something is droll! Seriously, I expected to hate on this, but she drew me in. The prose is very readable and the action moves along at a good pace.

Beverly is a stupid and lazy young mother and housewife who dreams of being a smart, fashionable, pampered person who associates with "better" people.

There are a couple of really great characters. One is a neighbor, the middle aged Betty Ann who is smart, wise, and fun. While finding Beverly complete silly and clueless, she gives Beverly some advice on how to meet society people. Beverly does meet some society people from Baltimore but after finding them to be totally normal and actually rather dull decides that it is because Baltimore is too provincial and the real society people are in Philadelphia and New York. I wasn't expecting this from the author, an old money society woman.

The other is a childhood non-sweetheart Ashton Downes, who Beverly daydreams about. After stupidly leaving her husband and heading to her mother's house outside of Philadelphia, Beverly manages to hook up with Ashton. Ashton is a fun character. Beverly dreams of having smart conversations on matters of import but is completely clueless. She dreams of running off as a fallen woman with Ashton into the sunset. Ashton constantly plays along and is usually brutally honest, but she totally doesn't get it.

I did a little googling. This was Hope Bishop Colket's first and only book. This book is pretty much a lost book. I had to add it to Good Reads. There is very little online about Mrs. Colket. Googling her husband (who has no hits), her maiden name comes up on a society page from a Brooklyn newspaper from the 1920s. Her husband's uncle was mentioned as traveling to Philadelphia for their wedding. I also found a mention of her in the 1940 census living well outside of Philadelphia. And that her husbands' namesake was a railroad executive. Other than that there is nothing more about her. She's a mystery lost to time.

Before the title page, there is a notice: "Under Government regulations for saving paper during the war, the size and bulk of this book have been reduced below the customary peacetime standards. Only the format has been affected. The text is complete and unabridged."

This book, set in 1944 or so, is a fascinating look into homefront life during WWII. Beverly's husband works in a factory making stuff for the war effort. They have ration books. It is also interesting to see how the transportation system worked back then.

Another hidden treasure from our bookshelves.

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