Friday, September 11, 2009
'Jane' by PF Jeffery, Book 3, Lundin, Chapter 2
The sleeping arrangements in Palace Victoria entail lifelong friends Nicola and Jane (almost reluctantly) fulfilling their tumbleability with each other, leading later in the chapter to a touching scene where Jane’s past lover, Modesty Clay, gives a sort of ritualised blessing to Nicola and Jane’s now apparent union of love as well as of friendship.
Talk of communal bathhouse ... jokes concerning roofs, windmills and the signalling system ... and civil service counselling regarding writing home to their Mums from London.
A wonderful sense of place as they explore Palace Victoria – and replacing a blackboard in their temporary office with a painting.
Talk of slavery etc. Moral (as well as mural!) dilemmas.
A telling passage:.:
<<Jennifer led us back to the gallery or balcony, and thence to three descending staircases. At the foot of the final flight, a door took us into what must have been the overgrown garden visible from Miss Horton’s window. Piled to one side lay a tall heap of uprooted growth, much of it hard to handle – thistles, brambles, nettles and the like. A dark haired girl in a white dress stood negligently by, whip lightly clasped in her right hand as though it might be an evening bag. While she smiled in their direction, chained men laboured, naked but for breech clouts and gloves. Their hands had some protection, but their backs had none – and it was clear that they’d been lashed.
“Slaves?” I asked. “But I thought that all the slaves had been liberated.”
“These,” Jennifer replied, “have been condemned by the summary court.”
“The Usurper’s men?” Lauren said, her intonation half way between a statement and a question.
“Guilty of treason through complicity in the usurpation of the throne of Lundin was the legal phrase, if I remember correctly. You see that one with the big nose?”>>
As a separate issue, I question the fabricated need for all these civil servants to have travelled to Lundin, to have an office and so much plot-movement as a result – simply to divvy up prizes for the army?
Typo? -- You strike as more of a City Girl.
More spycode enunciation...
Links to all my JANE chapter comments:
Posted at 12:54 pm by Weirdmonger
|PF Jeffery |
September 20, 2009 01:55 PM PDT
Thank you for that!
And thank you for spotting the typo (now corrected).
And thank you, too, for this comment:
“As a separate issue, I question the fabricated need for all these civil servants to have travelled to Lundin, to have an office and so much plot-movement as a result – simply to divvy up prizes for the army?”
It took me only moments to think of excellent reasons for this. And doing so helped to bring home to me how very well thought through “Jane” is. That said “very well thought through” may be far from exact. That would seem to imply a conscious thought process devoted to such matters. The reality is, I think, both more organic than that, and more subliminal.
But, as to the issue you raise…
What are the alternatives? Her Majesty could have raised a local workforce for the task (similar to the women entrusted with the day to day running of the Palace Victoria). Or she could have had all of the prize-related paperwork sent to Berenice, and had Coral Frobisher’s section work on it from the usual desks in the Ministry building on Warrior Square. I’m not sure which of these alternatives you had in mind, so I will address them both.
Why not use a local (Lundin) workforce? We need to bear in mind that the matter is both sensitive and involves a great deal of money (both in coin and, as becomes clear, in goods). It is sensitive because there is a conquering army waiting for its share of the booty (sorry, prizes). While Her Majesty enjoys the loyalty of her troops, this could be undermined by the idea that treasure was being diverted into greedy hands. And misappropriation of the prizes could make someone very rich. There are many ways in which money could be diverted into the wrong hands. One example may suffice. Jane notices that some bottles of whisky seem to be under-valued. There are a range of possible explanations. At worst, the valuer may be in collusion with whoever will buy the whisky, dividing the amount of the under-valuation between them. It may be a simple mistake. Or it may be a misunderstanding, perhaps the bottles may be smaller than Jane supposes. Because of the large sums of money the troops expect, and the sensitivity of the matter, the prizes need to be divided by persons of established financial probity and arithmetic ability. Local girls, however honest and competent, would be sure to raise suspicions. It is also significant that the members of Miss Frobisher’s section are already familiar with the complex protocols according to which the prizes are to be divided. Local girls would need vetting, training and testing. These processes would require a body of civil servants to administer and… well, we seem to be back where we started. Her Majesty is sorry, local girls, but this is a task which she feels unable to entrust to you.
So why not send the paperwork back to Berenice, for the attention of civil servants working in the Ministry building on Warrior Square? For one thing, the transmission of the information would allow possibilities of fraud. Papers could be conveniently lost in transit, or fail to reach the signaling towers. In reality, it would probably be a case of physically shifting the paperwork, rather than signaling it. The signal sections are too busy to convey personal messages for civil servants, and (I think) would find it impossible to cope with the extra burden of signaling the data on which the prize distribution is to be made. Perhaps more important, is the fact that (evidently) much of the prize money is not in coin but in valuations placed on physical objects. Where these valuations are in doubt, how much more convenient is it for Miss Frobisher (or one of her girls) to be able physically to inspect the loot (sorry, prizes) rather than send messages from Berenice to Lundin for someone else to do so? The presence of Lisa in the team is surely a considerable asset in this regard. She’s studied art history at the University, is presumably able to distinguish copies from originals, and knows much else that is germane to the valuation of prizes. Another issue is that there is an army anxious to lay its hands the swag (sorry, prizes). How reassured will they feel that civil servants from Berenice are visibly present in the Palace Victoria and working on the distribution? Of course, not every soldier will have seen members of Miss Frobisher’s section, but plenty of them will have done so. (And, in this regard, it is surely valuable that Jane and her colleagues share facilities with the troops: dining hall, communal bath house, etc.) At worst, a soldier will know someone who knows someone who’s seen the prize distribution girls. And everyone, I suspect, will have a good idea as to where Coral Frobisher’s office is located, something that is surely reassuring in itself. The prize distribution not only needs to be done, but it needs to be seen to be done.
I feel that I could write a book on this and related matters. (Which may be the reason I’ve taken so long to embark upon counter-comments on this chapter). There are other, related, question such as: Why is it better to have this task undertaken by a small close-knit team? And that particular question gives rise to further (often both intriguing and unanswerable) sub-questions. What, for example, of the double beds occupied by Jane and Nicola, Lauren and Lisa? Are these no more than the result of the furniture available in the Palace Victoria? Or are they deliberately designed to increase the intimacy between team members? A device to build sub-teams? To what extent is the extension of Jane and Nicola’s relationship, at this time, (from best friends to life partners) a matter of serendipity, and to what extent was it planned by persons not directly involved?
It seems to me an excellent thing that such questions hover over the book, unanswered and unanswerable. I hope that they give scope to individual readers in creating their own individual novels within the framework of the given text. I also hope that they will promote richer experiences on subsequent readings, depths that may not be apparent on the first reading.
September 20, 2009 02:24 PM PDT
I'm only too pleased that my innocent question has led to such potential openings of the novel's own internal development as a novel ... almost authonomously, after your (if hefty) nudge above.
I hope you are keeping copies of all this valuable material without depending solely on 'Blogdrive'!
September 25, 2009 02:17 PM PDT
Don’t worry, the whole exchange of comments and counter-comments is preserved in four Word documents. (Five chapters per document, to prevent their growing too long, although this doesn’t fit the division of “Jane” into books.) My practice has been to copy and paste your comments from the Internet into documents stored on a flash drive. The comments can then be carried across to my Internet-free laptop computer, on which I compose my counter-comments. The laptop computer is the one on which I composed “Jane” and, indeed, do all of my non-pen and ink writing. The comments documents are, throughout, in 14 point Times New Roman (my preferred font).