Friday, April 15, 2011

The Moochers Frontispiece

This is the frontispiece of The Moochers. I am about halfway through this book and it is really good. Set in Cornwall, it tells the story of two sixteen-year-old Scottish cousins, Fiona Auchenvole and Katherine Morton, who are moving to a new school in Cornwall. Before they set out, the girls find an old diary from 1794 that was written by an ancestor of theirs, also called Katherine. Great-aunt Katherine's journal tells of her only day at Pendragon Manor. The girls follow her footsteps to Cornwall and their new school. This is the only Jane Shaw novel set in Cornwall and it is quite intriguing. I'll probably finish reading it this afternoon. The cover and frontispiece are quite interesting. We see the girls imagining their distant aunt writing her journal way back in 1794. The title is also puzzling. The girls are given the nickname The Moochers by the head girl at Pendragon Manor, Betty Hill. She values her traditional school and dislikes the Scottish girls because they came from a modern school where they apparently enjoyed almost unlimited freedom. The cousins also refuse to grovel to Betty, who clearly thinks of herself as the most popular girl at the school. Betty claims that her rivals are always "mooching around", hence the nickname. The girls enjoy sending Betty up and actually relish the nickname and their reputation. They do not hide their contempt for the public school system with its houses and head girls and captain of the hockey team. Surprisingly, they are not reticent about letting their teachers know either. Unlike Susan and Midge, who lived in terror of the Ferret and other teachers, Fiona and Katherine actually enjoy baiting the unpleasant maths teacher, Miss Perry. "When I can command Fiona's attention," interrupted the acid voice of Miss Perry, "I shall take the register. I quite realize that what she has to say to Katherine is infinitely more interesting than anything I may have to say, but there it is ---" "Oh, that's all right, Miss Perry," said Fiona magnanimously; "you can't help saying these dull things, can you?" Miss Perry would have had Susan quaking in her boots, but the Moochers are clearly not so easy to intimidate. However, despite their nonchalant attitude, it is clear that the girls deep down begin to like the school, especially when Katherine begins to hope that she can get a place on the hockey team.