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Sunday, August 09, 2009
'Jane' by PF Jeffery (Book 1, Modesty's Camp, Chapter 4)

Jane questions last night's situation where she and Modesty became, in her eyes, lovers.


Scantily dressed, she borrows Modesty' greatcoat to visit the latrine around which male soldiers were present. She remains tellingly self-conscious for a while: "the talk of the bath-house"


A lovely paragraph that tells much of Jane's personal hinterland:


"Five years earlier, or a thereabouts, the place where the centre of Berenice now stands had been little more than a village.  Nevertheless, it had a bustling Comday market.  One evening, Nicola and I had hurried there after school, delighted to find that each of us had enough money in her purse to buy a scarf.  My choice had been this yellow one, still wearing its age well in Modesty's camp – Nicola's had been red.  Stephanie Miles, at school next day, had taunted me: Jane the pain, bad speller in yeller.  Cheek! I'd replied, my spelling's better than yours any day.  Her friend, Rachel Stevens, had added: Nicola the fickler, good as dead in red.  She was probably hoping that Nicola would slap her, triggering retribution from the headmistress – fortunately, my friend kept her temper.  In spite of this, or because of it, Nicola and I had, for two or three years, adopted red and yellow as our colours.  When she had a new red cardigan or skirt, mine was sure to be yellow."


This seemed a bit clumsy: "As I went – me too burdened to prevent it – the breeze blew open my dressing gown."


Then taunting from onlookers about Jane who had shared Modesty's bedroll, with 'accountant' as a derogatory calling-name.    

But the taunters are sorry.  Their regard for Modesty, however, is more like that for a Goddess, perhaps.




"Captain Clay was best part dressed, tugging on her boots, although her shirt remained unbuttoned.  Close to her feet was a bowl of washing water, its colour suggesting the removal of blood.  Anna Milton's thought that I might be having my period was certainly wrong, but I wondered whether Modesty might be having hers.  Surely, if so, I'd have noticed the night before.  No, I concluded, it had to be the bloodshed of battle."


Modesty is still amorous, to Jane's surprise:


"Please don't start crying again.  I'm not ashamed of you.  I should be proud that such a lovely young girl is interested in an old warhorse like me."


But Anna Milton the despatch rider –  to me, a sinister figure – has been witness to these goings-on...


Jane's career is therefore over? 


Modesty doesn't want Jane to be a 'caged bird' as she doesn't like caged birds.  Jane must depart, it seems. But can the departure be delayed to wring out more nights of love?


Plot (involving Jill the surgeon) to keep Anna from broadcasting the already increasing gossip of Jane and Modesty even further afield (although I couldn't see what was in it for Anna to be delayed at Camp pretending to be ill while Jill did her despatch delivering job.)


The story told in this chapter by artful dialogue and crystalline passages of description.


However, I don't like this modern 21st century expression: "I'm so not in the space for this."



Links to all my JANE chapter comments:

Posted at 07:48 am by Weirdmonger

PF Jeffery
August 10, 2009   06:31 PM PDT
The male soldiers (or, more accurately, prisoners) don’t seem to be in the area of the latrines. Rather, Jane is concerned lest she encounter them between Modesty’s tent (in the centre of the camp) and the latrines (which, as implied in Chapter 2, are near the perimeter).

I’m glad that you enjoyed the brief reminiscence from Jane’s schooldays. More such reminiscences are to follow in the next the chapter.

I agree that “As I went – me too burdened to prevent it – the breeze blew open my dressing gown.” is a bit clumsy. Perhaps, in the fullness of time, I will revise it. For whatever reason, if one removes the word “me”, the “it” of “too burdened to prevent it” seems to refer to “As I went”. Either that, or the breeze was too burdened. Maybe it should have been two sentences thus: “The breeze blew open my dressing gown. I had been too burdened to prevent it.” But even that doesn’t seem right to me.

The issue of whether Jane’s career is over should be left as an open question for now.

I’m not sure that Anna Milton is a sinister figure. She likes to talk, but that seems to me a human characteristic. In the next chapter, Anna may seem more human than she does in this. As we learn more of characters, they tend to seem more human.

You’re not sure what’s in it for Anna, in pretending to be sick. A couple of weeks of skiving, it seems to me. An extended sickie. This may be clearer in the next chapter.

And, to clear up what seems to me a strange misunderstanding, Jill won’t be doing Anna’s work while she’s supposedly sick. Jill is the doctor who signs Anna off as sick. When someone is signed off as sick by a doctor, the doctor doesn’t do the sick person’s job, it just doesn’t work like that. If it did, doctors would surely sign hardly anyone off as sick. Well, it would easy enough (I expect) for the prime minister to find a doctor to sign him off sick, but a lot more difficult for call centre drones, dustmen or data input clerks.

Unlike you, I am pleased with “I’m so not in the space for this.” That is very largely because it is a distinctly modern expression. Many of the details of the Warriors of Love seem archaic, and occasional twenty-first century expressions may help to remind the reader that this is the future, rather than the past.

Archaic weaponry and transportation are essential for the workability of the background to “The Warriors of Love”. With Second World War technology, the wars described would be over within weeks. With twenty-first century technology, the wars would last only days. Of course, guerrilla or terrorist actions could continue for much longer, but the war between two armies in southern England would be over very quickly. It’s a matter of speed of transport, the range of weapons and their destructiveness.
DF Lewis
August 10, 2009   07:26 PM PDT
Thanks for you various counter-comments, PFJ, so far.

I agree that 21st century phrases will do what you say they will - but I HATE the 'in the space' expression whatever era it comes from! :(
DF Lewis
August 16, 2009   06:08 PM PDT

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