09/03/2013

What Katy Did Next (by Susan Coolidge)

I was six when I first heard of Susan Coolidge. I thoroughly enjoyed her first book, 'What Katy Did', although it was intended for slightly older children, and then re-read it at least two or three times during my teens, which I'm sure I understood it somewhat better. I was very pleased when I learned that there were two sequels, and read 'What Katy Did at School' more than once.  A couple of years ago I downloaded them, along with this book, and two further sequels which I had not previously heard of, for my Kindle - free, as they are long out of copyright: Susan Coolidge lived and wrote at the end of the 19th century.

'What Katy Did Next' is the third in the series which features the kind and headstrong Katy. In this book, she is a calmer young woman of twenty who runs the Carr household efficiently, and is popular with the entire neighbourhood. She dreams of travelling to Europe, but her father is not wealthy and it never occurs to her that she might have an opportunity to fulfil her dreams. So she is thrilled when a rich neighbour offers to take her there as a companion, and also as extra help with the neighbour's daughter Amy.

Most of the book covers their travels by boat and train, including a brief visit to Katy's dear friend Rose Red who is now married with a delightful smiling baby. Although the book was written as contemporary fiction, it now feels like a lovely piece of social history.  Katy retains her strong character and sense of justice - evident in the earlier books - alongside deep compassion and also a great sense of the ridiculous.  While the characterisation is generally good, Katy stands out above the rest, possibly because she was somewhat based on the author's own personality.

There's not much plot, and the story is a bit meandering in places with a slightly intrusive author viewpoint here and there. I'm aware that this was the fashion a hundred or more years ago, but it could feel annoying to anyone who was not expecting it. I very much doubt if this would appeal to most of today's teenagers, or indeed many adults who prefer gritter, action-packed sagas. Nonetheless,  I very much enjoyed re-visiting this book which I liked so much as a child.

Recommended, but best read after the first two in the series.

Note: links are to paperback editions of this book; the one at US Amazon is of 'What Katy Did at School' as well as 'What Katy Did Next'.  But they are available inexpensively or free for the Kindle.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 9th March 2013

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