Aunt Book Expresses Righteous Indignation

In Which Aunt Book Chastises Authors Whose Inconsistency Spoils Good Books   

    There is a really marvelous series of books by Jane Duncan about a family named Cameron:  Camerons on the Train (1963), Camerons on the Hills (1963), Camerons at the Castle (1964), Camerons Calling (1966), Camerons Ahoy (1968).

    The eldest Cameron, and narrator of the books, is Shona, followed by her brothers Neil, Donald, and Iain, or Nink, who is mentally handicapped.

    Aunt Book recommends the books, especially Camerons at the Castle and Camerons Calling, but she has a major complaint:
the author selectively aged her characters in a way that drives Aunt Book quite batty. The inconsistency is annoying; and, as Aunt Book will  describe later, in at least one instance it affects the characterization, as well.

    Train is set during the Christmas holidays.
        Shona is 13, Neil 10, Donald 6, Iain 3
        This is the first time the children have traveled alone by train to their aunt's.

    Hills is set during Easter holidays.
        Shona 13 1/2, Neil 11 "and a bit, that made him nearly 12," Donald 7
        Presumably it is the Easter following the first book; but Shona writes, "When we were younger, Father, Mother and our little brother Iain used to come too, but now they come only for the long holidays in the summer, and at Christmas and Easter we three travel up to Aunt's by ourselves on the train.  I wrote a story about the very first time we travelled on the train by ourselves, when we had a very exciting time, but the journeys since then have been very ordinary and, indeed, quite dull.  Things often become dull when you become used to them."  So just when have they been making all these trips that have become so dull and ordinary, if Shona has aged only 6 months?  Of course, everybody else has aged a year.  Perhaps Shona is supposed to be 14 1/2, but that is not what the book says.

    Castle is set during the summer holidays and starts in July.
        Shona is 14 years 8 months, Neil nearly 13, Donald 8, Nink 5
        So - Everyone has aged 1 year this time, which is consistent (if you ignore the problem of Shona's age last time).
        In Castle, Aunt and all four children go to Castle Vannich.  Somerled Macdonald, the Macdonald of Vannich, is, in order to save it, opening Castle Vannich as a hotel.  He is 21 (Tall. Gorgeous. Charming.  Pardon Aunt Book a moment while she fetches her smelling salts so as not to swoon).  The book is told by Shona in the first person, so she never comes out and says she has a crush on him, but one would have to be quite startlingly clueless not to figure it out (and one can't blame her in the least).  The whole thing is Fraught with Possibilities.  Being a sucker for romance, Aunt Book was delighted to find that the next book, Camerons Calling, also featured Somerled.

    Calling is set during the summer holidays.
        Shona is nearly 16, Neil is 14, Donald 9, Iain 6. Aging is a bit wobbly - shouldn't Neil be "nearly 14?" Still, not too bad.
        But, as Aunt Book read, she became somewhat cranky.  Suddenly, Somerled is 25.  That would be annoying enough, but making him that much older also spoils his character a bit.  In Calling, he goes crazy about a spoiled, loathsome, but very pretty singer, and acts like an idiot.  Which is understandable if he's 21, but by 25 he should have a bit more sense, at least, and so it ends up making him seem a less mature and admirable character.  And for those who would argue that 25 isn't that much more mature when it comes to a man making a fool of himself over a pretty girl, some of the other things Somerled does, unrelated to the girl, are also somewhat immature.  (A 21-year-old acting like a 21-year-old is fine. A 25-year-old acting like a 21-year-old is not).  Also, in the course of the book he also shows some jealousy that Shona seems to be getting along rather well with a boy her own age; which again would be fine if he is 21 but is bordering on creepy if he is 25.

    Ahoy is set during the Easter holidays.
        Shona is 16, Neil 14, Donald 10, Iain 7. So this is, presumably, the next Easter. In other words, about 20 months after Castle began, and maybe 8 months after Calling.  The Camerons were all thrilled to be going to Castle Vannich again in Calling.
Now, we get:  "When Neil, Donald and I were younger we thought that Aunt and Jennyville and Castle Vannich and Angus and Somerled were the best people and places in the world. . . Some years ago, we all got together and turned Castle Vannich into a luxury hotel.  All this was very exciting and, at that time, as I have said, Neil, Donald and I thought we would never want to spend our holidays anywhere except at Castle Vannich . . . but it is rather sad how one grows out of things. . . . And we had even grown out of Castle Vannich a bit."
        And, regarding Somerled: "although he is nearly thirty and stands six feet two, [he] behaves like an overgrown schoolboy most of the time, according to Aunt."
        Aunt Book was frothing at the mouth.  Thirty!  And all the Possibilities completely gone (which, if he is 30, makes sense; but he is  NOT!)  There is barely anything made of his first appearance.  And Aunt Book does not think he is acting like a 30-year-old, either.  The whole flavor of the books has changed.

    Aunt Book was expounding a theory to a friend.  Duncan (a pseudonym) based the children in the books on her own niece and nephews -  she even used their names.  Aunt Book theorizes that Miss Duncan got mad at the real Shona, and decided that Shona didn't deserve Somerled.

    Or perhaps Duncan decided that Somerled, or whoever it was upon whom she based the character, wasn't good enough for Shona. (Hard to believe; he's wonderful, at least in Castle, and if you assume he's still only 22 or so in Ahoy).

    Of course, another possibility is that Shona rebelled against it.  Perhaps she didn't like the character of Somerled.  Perhaps her real-life boyfriend was 5'3", dark-haired, weedy, and charmless, and didn't like the inevitable "You have to be kidding!" when he was introduced to people who had read the books.

    Whatever.  If Duncan didn't want to develop the embryonic romance any further, Aunt Book supposes (very grudgingly) that was her prerogative. (It wasn't, actually, but Aunt Book is prepared be gracious about it).  BUT PLAYING MERRY MAYHEM WITH AGES ISN'T FAIR!!!!!

    That should be the first thing that authors have to do when they become authors: Sign a pledge that says, "I will not drive my readers loopy by being shamelessly inconsistent."

    Meanwhile, Aunt Book will mentally rewrite the parts of these books that offend her.


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