Monday, September 3

Dear Sallie McBride

I do apologise for not speaking for so long.  When I'm not reading, I don't have anything to say, but finally, as I settle into an intensive routine of study, work, and spare time, I am getting a good hour each night to enjoy a book before bed.  

The lack of compulsion to read anything in particular led me to make an impulsive and brilliant decision.  A while back, my aunty was cleaning out her house and she gave me a stack of books that she read as a teenager.  Several of these were L.M. Montgomery, another was Lousia May Alcott, and then there was one that I knew nothing about.  

Dear Enemy by Jean Webster.  I had never even heard of the book.  As I slid it in between Eight Cousins and Madame Bovary on my bookshelf, I thought to myself that I would probably never take it out again.  But as I sat in bed, craving something new to read, my eyes fell upon it and I simply decided to read the blurb.  Then I simple decided to read the first page.  Then I simple decided to commit my heart and soul to that glorious story.

Dear Enemy  takes the format of a series of letters to various people by one Sallie McBride, a flamboyant Irish social-butterfly living during the early 1900s in America.  At the beginning of the book, she has just been "conned" into temporarily taking up the position of superintendent at the John Grier Home, an orphanage run by two friend of hers.  Her purpose for staying on longer than arranged begins as a point to make to her politician beau, and then as a genuine conviction of love for the job.  All this is made beautifully tantalising and suspenseful by the growing romantic tension between her and the brusque Scottish doctor, Robin McCrae, or Sandy as she fondly refers to him in her letters.  It’s amazing how she doesn’t see it to begin with, but to the reader, it is scrumptiously obvious that she is falling in love with him, and he with her – the charming, outgoing, redheaded girl, and the short-tempered, sturdy, reliable doctor.  They fight and find each other dreadfully frustrating, but oh, the delights of matchmaking between literary characters is a pleasure for gods! 

I cannot emphasise enough, however, how the real compelling quality to this short and snappy 190 page read comes from Sallie McBride’s voice.  As the book takes the form of letters written from Sallie to her friends – or to her ‘Enemy’ the doctor – it is her voice that drives the plot.  And it is a beautiful voice.  It immediately reminds me of myself, but a larger, stronger, braver version, with the same worries and the same prides.  She is authentic, human, totally real in my heart, and I cannot be convinced otherwise. 

Sallie McBride, in the short week that I spent with her, has become one of my best friends in all the world, literary or otherwise.  I feel as though I have found a true bosom friend in her, as Anne of Green Gables would say, and also a looking glass into the future image of who I would happily be. 

Isn’t it amazing who we meet in our most random literary discoveries? 

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