Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

This is normally the time in our club weeks that I start to wind down, and maybe do a round up, but I’ve read so much for the 1968 club that I’m keeping going! Sorry that I’ve not been rounding up reviews quite as assiduously as I should have been, but it’s really exciting to see people join in – and I’ll put together a full list before too long. But still this review and another one to come before the end of the week!

Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw is testament to the fact that I will eventually finish those books that I got halfway through and forgot about. I bought it after Jenny from Reading the End enthused about it somewhere… I thought it was on her blog, but her review was in 2008 and I bought it in 2015 so WHO KNOWS. Well, I read 150pp of it when it arrived, and somehow it fell down the pile of the books I was reading concurrently… it’s almost like I knew that the 1968 Club would come along and give me the proper moment to finish it.

Greensleeves was rescued from obscurity by (a) the aforementioned Jenny, and (b) Nancy Pearl, celebrity librarian – and the copy I have was published in her oddly-titled ‘Nancy Pearl Book Crush Rediscoveries’ series. The novel is about an eighteen-year-old girl, Shannon, who has never quite felt she belonged – and not just for the reasons that most people that age feel that way. She has been shunted between various parents and parental figures, between parts of America and Ireland and England (‘Ireland’ is several times called ‘Britain’, I think. Hmm, McGraw, hmm), and she has serious misgivings about her future.

So, sure, she ends up going undercover as a spy in a boarding house, trying to work out whether or not there are grounds to contest a weird will left by a Mrs Dunningham – she has bequeathed money for people to go skydiving or maintain a weed garden or study useless subjects, etc. A change is as good as a holiday. And Shannon is so used to being several different people that adding another doesn’t seem too big an obstacle – so she disguises her accent (and her intellect) and becomes Georgetta. She has a towering 60s bouffant, bright clothes, and half the brain Shannon has – but more confidence and charm in speaking with people. That’s the idea, anyway – the number of made-up relatives, and a certain awkwardness and uncertainty which she can’t quite hide, prove stumbling blocks occasionally. Shannon/Georgetta becomes a waitress at the local restaurant (or ‘luncheonette’) – a perfect vantage from which to question people.

Only she didn’t quite account for the presence of Sherry (male despite name; friendly, charming, and optimistic regular of the restaurant, who nicknames her Greensleeves) or Dave (rude, but sexy, 20-something occupant of the boarding house). She finds herself in something of a love triangle.

What makes this novel not annoying, though, is that the central issue isn’t Boy A vs Boy B, but Shannon trying to come to terms with her own personality. She does this through trying to understand others – whether that be Sherry and Dave, the other beneficiaries of the will, or the deceased Mrs D. It’s a very true portrayal of what it means to be on the cusp of adulthood when your background is too myriad to make your path obvious.

But mostly the book is great because it’s so energetic. There is pep. The characters are slightly quirky, Sherry is a real love, and there is a sense of optimism and kindness that pervades it, somehow even when people aren’t behaving kindly.

As for the 1968 Club – this feels very representative of a certain sort of 1960s America, because of fashion and dialect, but it also feels extremely modern in the way it’s written. Other 1960s novels carry something of there period in each paragraph, for better or worse, whereas Greensleeves could have been written this week – I would totally have believed it was a historical novel, if a gap of 50 years makes something historical.

I imagine this novel would mean much more if one read it as a teenager – do press it upon any teenage readers who might enjoy it – but it’s still great fun to read as an adult, and has one of the few will-they-won’t-they narratives that made me actually care.

Thanks Jenny for bringing it to my attention initially, and thanks 1968 Club for making me finally finish it!

10 thoughts on “Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

  • November 4, 2017 at 1:07 pm
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    I picked this up in my grade school library (not suitable although I never let that bother me) and I remembered nothing about it except that the heroine was a runaway of some kind and that I hadn’t liked it. I think I was disappointed because the title led me to expect something Elizabethan and clearly that was a misnomer. Also, I was about 10 and while I read many books about teens, perhaps Shannon’s 60s misadventures seemed more alien to me than the 1950s heroines (or 1650s) whose antics I devoured. Given McGraw’s other achievements (plus, I too trust Nancy Pearl, one of a select few who loves Elswyth Thane as I do), I should try it again!

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  • November 4, 2017 at 5:12 pm
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    Hurrah! It’s funny how it can sometimes take us ages to get to a book and through it to the end. I was like that with Suite Francaise – abandoned halfway through the first time and yet loved it second time round. And a wonderfully obscure title for 1968 too! :)

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  • November 4, 2017 at 5:25 pm
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    This book sounds delightful. I am going to look for it.

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  • November 4, 2017 at 6:21 pm
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    That sounds like a great read, I wish you’d blogged about it earlier so I could have got hold of a copy and joined in!

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  • November 4, 2017 at 6:22 pm
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    Oh – £1 on Kindle, you say? Hm … oops. I’ll be a bit late on this but you’ll let me in still, won’t you?

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  • November 5, 2017 at 10:18 pm
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    Imagine me hugging my copy (OKAY MY COPIES PLURAL) of Greensleeves and twirling around in a circle as I read this post. Predictably, the book meant everything to me when I read it as a teenager, so I think you’re quite right there. But oh I am so glad you were able to enjoy it still as an adult. Bless Sherry’s sweet heart.

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    • November 6, 2017 at 10:02 am
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      I just read it for the first time as a 45 year old and was CHARMED!

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  • November 7, 2017 at 8:27 pm
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    You made it through this time: congrats! I have a mini-project of finally completing a bunch of half-read books too, and it’s amazing how long it takes to right that wrong. Well, it probably takes about half-again-as-long because one nearly always has to begin again, right? Anyway, this sounds like it was definitely worth the time to revisit and properly enjoy and complete: it does sound like a very rewarding tale!

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