Thursday, November 15, 2012

Books I Loved: Seventeeth Summer

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly

I can't remember how I actually got a copy of this book when I was a kid - maybe it was a garage sale, or the neighbor girls had it, but it was vintage in the 1970s when I had it.  It was paperback, and I had it with this cover on it.   It was written in 1942, and published for adults, it became one of the first to capture a teenaged audience. Some scholars consider it the first "Young Adult" novel. Maureen Daly started writing it when she was 17 herself, and finished it when she was a senior in college.  It has never gone out of print. In fact, its latest reincarnation looks like this:

It is about a 17-year-old girl named Angie Morrow. It takes place in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Angie gets asked out on her first date by the local high school's basketball star, Jack Duluth, age 18. They fall in love but soon the summer will end, for Angie has to go to college in Chicago, and Jack is going back to his home in Oklahoma to help his uncle with the bakery business.

I always loved the description of that summer in Wisconsin.  Once, as a college student, I stopped in Fond du Lac just to see it - it didn't measure up to my expectations of how the book described the town, but I had to make the pilgrimmage.  There was something about how Maureen Daly described the place (and her own home town) that made me want to visit it.  I remember Jack taking Angie out for a sail on Lake Winnebago and whispering that she "sure looked pretty with the wind in her hair".  

Indeed, it was the way she described things that stuck in my head.   To this day, on a hot July day, I think of the beginning of the July chapter when she described the heat of summer:

It was hot. It was hot with a steady, beating heat that comes from a bare sky and a high sun. still and glaring, that covers the whole ground without a shadow. It was the kind of sun in which high school girls go about with their long silk hair pinned in knots on top of their head like scrubwomen, and little children  splash in tubs of shallow water in their back yards and older people drag mattresses onto airing porches and wait for a breeze in the still quiet heat of the evening.

I still think of Angie and Jack going out on their last date ever when they decided to ditch their plans for the evening to bring in the green tomatoes and wrap them in newspaper because her mom was worried about them every time the first frost of the fall catches me by surprise.    I think of Angie's mom telling her that it was good to travel in "clean of the morning" when she boarded the train for college to Chicago every time I leave early on a trip.   It is good to travel in the clean of the morning -so much better than leaving midday or at night.

I've got to find my copy of the book somewhere on my shelves.  It's been a long time since I've re read it.....     

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