Tag Archives: Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet the Spy

I was a bit disappointed by Harriet the Spy. Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel had been recommended to me, and although I didn’t exactly rush to read it, I fully expected it to be something it wasn’t.

To begin with I quite liked it, but grew to actively dislike Harriet herself. I’m unsure as to whether she’s not meant to be likeable, or if she’s more of a Pippi Longstocking girl that the reader is meant to admire because she’s so different. I believe Harriet the Spy was suggested as an aspie book, and it is, I suppose. Harriet’s problems in relating to her school friends suggests a lack of theory of mind. (With my aspie hat on, I also noticed a couple of ‘mistakes,’ like Harriet going to school on a Sunday.)

Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

It’s a rather charming period piece, set in New York over fifty years ago. It’s the kind of New York it’d be nice to be able to see for yourself, and almost impossible to imagine today.

You have to admire [some of] Harriet’s observational skills. She creeps round the neighbourhood collecting data on people in her notebook, to which she is permanently attached. She sees all these things, but she fails to understand what they mean, what makes people tick. Harriet also fails to allow others to be different. It’s all about her and her ways.

Her nanny is sacked, and everything goes wrong. Her teachers ‘don’t understand her’ and her friends and non-friends alike turn on her. In a way, what this really is is a book by Rebecca Stead, turned on its head. I.e. it’s the plot as seen by the ‘bad’ child, rather than the usual point of view.

And then, everything is ‘fine’ again, which is fine by me, but I didn’t admire the ways it was made fine.

(I have used a book cover image different to the one on my copy, because among other things I dislike is ‘the film/television’ book cover. Especially when it seems to bear little relation to the story.)

Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

Super Thursday

How super is it? I’ve been considering having a good long moan about this for a while. About today, and all the books that are published on this one day. I suppose it’s rather like moaning about your family; you love them, but something is driving you demented.

Even while being ruthless about what I want to read – and let’s face it, that’s hard to be – Super Thursday has got me on my knees, and they weren’t very good knees to begin with. For weeks I’ve been muttering a prayer that ‘surely after early October there will be only a very small number of books being published for at least three months’. Please?

They started arriving in early summer with Jacqueline Wilson in the lead, and at that point I felt there was plenty of time. Just a few August and September books to read. Not too bad. Months turned to weeks and then there were days and then there was nothing.

Anyway, if I don’t end up reading a particular book, that doesn’t mean it’s bad or that I wasn’t interested. A large number of books lie waiting; either for a little love and attention a month or two late, or maybe hoping to become the surprise read next summer, or at the very least that I will love it in my retirement in the far off future.

As I didn’t start this blog just to review books, or to write exclusively about new books, I feel the time has come to have rules about how I read. On the basis that many books will have to wait for me to read while baby-sitting the great grandchildren one day, I will allow myself to read old books, and books for purely personal pleasure on a more regular basis. I just can’t decide whether to have a monthly plan, or whether to go for four of one category followed by two from another?

This way I could soon be reading I Capture the Castle and Harriet the Spy and Nesser and Theorin and all the Adrian McKintys. I have three interesting looking story collections by Chris Priestley sitting looking hopeful. Plus all the rest. Oh yes, I understand I must read The Secret Garden. Black Beauty. And one or two more.

Shorter and less frequently published books will always be appreciated.