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family ties

As you may know, my love for Sweet Valley High books knows no bounds. Which was why I was thrilled to find, while in Cork over Christmas, a copy of The Patmans of Sweet Valley. Yes! It was the story of Bruce Patman's ancestors, they who founded the famous canning factory which allowed their descendents to be so snooty about being, um, aristocrats (being well aquainted with the Nancy Mitford rules of snobbery, which I obviously didn't agree with, I thought it was rather odd that Bruce Patman was the Californian equivalent of the Duke of Devonshire because the family owned a canning factory - unlike the supposedly nouveau riche Fowlers, with their silicon chip empire!). Except it turns out that they really made their fortune from oil, and only went to Sweet Valley in the '40s and started the canning factory then! And! Bruce really IS of "noble" blood, because on his mother's side he is descended from (of course) the daughter of an earl! You see, the story starts in Regency England, where the beautiful Lady Sophie meets handsome stable lad Henry Patman. We can see in the family trees at the start of the book that both of Bruce's parents are descended from this duo, and that their descendents seem to keep bumping into each other over the centuries, but just as I thought that Bruce was going to turn out to be the product of six generations of incest (which would explain a lot), the star crossed lovers are separated by Lady Sophie's cruel parents - oh noes!

So basically we trace both Bruce's maternal and paternal line, members of which keep meeting but never getting together properly, until of course Bruce's parents fall in love and actually manage to get married to each other and produce their monstrous child. The whole thing was totally stupid and totally entertaining, and there was one rather good bit about Bruce's great-great-great-grandfather who leaves his pro-slavery family during the American civil war and goes off to help on the underground railroad. He falls in love with an escaped slave, and they get married in a secret Quaker ceremony. And then she gets pregnant, and just as I was thinking that we were going to uncover Bruce's African-American roots, which would have been pretty cool, she is KILLED by confederate soldiers, and the whole thing was actually quite moving CURSES WHAT AM I SAYING (tm molesworth).

Anyway, after that we can rest assured that Bruce, like the rest of the Aryan nation at Sweet Valley High, is 100% WASP. Seriously, Sweet Valley is the waspiest town in America. There are about ten students who aren't white (about five black students, one Chinese girl, and two Mexican-Americans. In SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA). There are no Jewish kids. There are no Irish-American kids. There are certainly no children with Arabic names. There is one kid with an Italian surname. In fact, there are hardly any students who don't have true blue English surnames. It's ridiculous. They try and make up for it in one of the last books, in which Annie Whitman's mother marries a black man who moves to SV with his daughter. And then the daughter starts seeing the Wakefield's brother. Around the same time there was a book in which the seldom-mentioned school bully starts a racist campaign against one of the two black students. But it's too little, too late after nearly 100 books without an O'Hanrahan or a Rosenberg or an anything non-WASPish in the surname line to be seen. I wish someone would write a thesis on race relations in Sweet Valley, because it would be a pretty damning indictment of the astonishing racism of either the publishing industry or the SVH editors.

But on Wednesday in Chapter's I found The Fowlers of Sweet Valley, billed as "the sweeping, romantic history of the men and women who made Lila Fowler who is today!" YES! And it turns out that Lila is not a WASP, because SHE IS DESCENDED FROM A FRENCH ARISTOCRAT! Not so nouveau riche now, eh, Patmans? Oh my God, it's hilarious. I am only on the first bit now, but so far Lili (for that is the name of the French aristocrat) has lost her family and her fortune. Because apparently in 1789, several days before the storming of the Bastille, run of the mill French peasants not only were besieging the houses of the local toffs, but THEY HAD THEIR OWN GUILLOTINE! In a field! In the Loire valley! Long before the reign of terror! Yes! Who knew? Not most historians, I'll be bound. Anyway, Lili is rescued at the last minute by a handsome stranger and taken off to Paris and dumped at the side of the road to seek her fortune. Now, of course, I thought that it was going to turn out that Lila was descended from a demi-mondaine as there were very few jobs that a penniliess woman with no home or family could do in 18th century, but alas it was not to be. SO FAR. Lili is currently working as a seamstress (which seems like a rather inaccurately jolly job) but who knows how far she'll fall? All I know is that it can't be far enough for me. I'll keep you all posted. And now I have to look for The Wakefields of Sweet Valley, which of course does exist, and which will doubtless tell us that the Wakefield Twins are descended from the sun god Ra or something. God knows, the stars of Sweet Valley can't be descended from plain old peasants like the rest of us...

Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
leedy
Feb. 3rd, 2006 11:39 am (UTC)
*wheezes with mirth*

I have to borrow these. HAVE. TO.
biascut
Feb. 3rd, 2006 11:46 am (UTC)
Have you not read Sweet Valley Saga? It tells of two beautiful young twins called Jessamyn and Elisabeth who work in a circus. Elisabeth is quiet and gentle, but Jessamyn is wild and adventurous, and gets killed falling off a horse. She almost marries a man named Edward Wakefield, but doesn't. Then she has beautiful twins, whom she names Molly and Polly (actually, she doesn't - one of them is called Amanda, though, I think) who are flapper, and one of them nearly marries a man named Teddy Wakefield, but doesn't, and then one of their daughters (who never looks a day older than her sixteen year old daughter) ends up in the French Resistance (probably trying to save the life of a man named Edouard Wakeville), and she has a daughter called Alice who is a big hippy and falls in love with a man named Ned Wakefield while at university in the sixties with no shoes on.

I may not have that all completely accurate, but that's the gist.
biascut
Feb. 3rd, 2006 11:49 am (UTC)
Also! Have you seen the Sweet Valley Senior Year books? I read a few of them just after handing in my MA thesis when the Blonde and I had our big SVH kick. Suddenly, 40% of the population of Sweet Valley is Spanish and the Dairi Burger is completely abandoned for the House of Mocca where everyone drinks skinny soy lattes and eats biscotti. Sweet Valley goes millenium!
(no subject) - stellanova - Feb. 3rd, 2006 11:53 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - leedy - Feb. 3rd, 2006 11:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - biascut - Feb. 3rd, 2006 12:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - biascut - Feb. 3rd, 2006 12:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stellanova - Feb. 3rd, 2006 12:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - leedy - Feb. 3rd, 2006 12:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stellanova - Feb. 3rd, 2006 11:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - biascut - Feb. 3rd, 2006 12:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stellanova - Feb. 3rd, 2006 12:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - biascut - Feb. 3rd, 2006 01:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jdawgspi - Feb. 3rd, 2006 02:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
jeejeen
Feb. 3rd, 2006 02:10 pm (UTC)
Sweet jesus.
anglaisepaon
Feb. 3rd, 2006 03:04 pm (UTC)
Took the words out of my mouth.
(no subject) - stellanova - Feb. 4th, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
starfishchick
Feb. 3rd, 2006 02:34 pm (UTC)
I own, or *did* own, The Wakefields of Sweet Valley, and would be happy to send it to you.
stellanova
Feb. 3rd, 2006 02:52 pm (UTC)
Oh my God, that would be amazing! I'd pay for it, of course.
(no subject) - starfishchick - Feb. 3rd, 2006 03:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - starfishchick - Jan. 8th, 2007 02:06 am (UTC) - Expand
fox1013
Feb. 3rd, 2006 03:44 pm (UTC)
This entire post is a thing of beauty.

*basks in it*
alicetiara
Feb. 3rd, 2006 04:15 pm (UTC)
This post was terrific. A++
stellanova
Feb. 4th, 2006 12:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'll try and keep you all informed on the progress of Lila's illustrious ancestors as I work my way through The Fowlers of Sweet Valley - although now biascut has informed me that the Wakefields are descended from circus folk, I can't help wishing I was reading The Wakefields of Sweet Valley instead....
stephencass
Feb. 3rd, 2006 05:21 pm (UTC)
I can only assume you have plans to pour all this research into a lavishly detailed website, complete with family trees with rollover minibios... :) Also, if they're constanly releasing new books at various epochs (junior high, college, etc), how do they maintain continuity? Are there multiple timelines? And aren't these questions more appropos to a Dr. Who fan site than teen lit?
orionnebula
Feb. 3rd, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC)
Best book report ever.
enoneoftheabove
Feb. 3rd, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC)
Kind of sad, really, considering we're Americans and aren't supposed to care about things like that.
alltheleaves
Feb. 5th, 2006 06:10 pm (UTC)
I wish someone would write a thesis on race relations in Sweet Valley, because it would be a pretty damning indictment of the astonishing racism of either the publishing industry or the SVH editors.


*ahem*

*registers you as PhD student*
paranoidkitten
Feb. 14th, 2006 01:53 pm (UTC)
*giggles* Aren't they the BEST THINGS IN THE UNIVERSE? You really do have to read the two Wakefield books. So many twins! So much tragedy and WOE!
dirtywingsgirl
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:15 pm (UTC)
Lol! Lollll. I love you. descended from the sun god Ra or something.
I've read both this book and the Fowler one. Yep, pretty hilarious,
what with the paralells of many characters to Bruce and Lila, and
the intersections of the maternal & paternal lines of family...but
luckily no incest.
Hey,have you checked out http://community.livejournal.com/1bruce1/?
xx
stellanova
Oct. 2nd, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Actually, I did eventually get a copy of the glorious Wakefields saga, which I must finally recap. Strangely enough, it's not quite as almost-incest filled as the Bruce and Lila ones - the Wakefields and Alice's variously named ancestors don't keep bumping into each other to the same extent. Also, one of the Jessica-esque ancestors does meet a Bruce-esque man called, um, Bruce.

I just discovered 1bruce1 this week, and joined straight away! Wasn't it you who posted that Magic Pen "thriller" recap today? That was hilarious! I think I might post my Wakefield Saga recap there too...

(no subject) - dirtywingsgirl - Oct. 2nd, 2007 11:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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