I do not appreciate casual slaps at the South for being racist. I do not mind delineations of particular racist things the South has done and continues to do (that’s fair, although I don’t know why the North always gets such a pass), but I just can’t stand this unsupported assumption that the South is full of people ten times more racist than the rest of the country. So I didn’t like it in this book when the Mysterious (read: deeply aggravating and nobody in her right mind would ever bother with him) Boy Next Door, Dominic, says a few racist things to Gentian and her friends, and then says he’s from “south of here,” and Gentian thinks, I’ll just bet. Since they’re in Minnesota, everything is south of there, but they of course assume that he’s from The South.
However, I didn’t like Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary even without that. In Tam Lin, I was willing to be entertained by the vagaries of college life in between waiting for the plot to show up, and I didn’t mind so much that the plot points were few and far between. In Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, I was bored by the plot points as much as the not-plot parts. The omphaloskepsis (yeah, I went there) of Gentian and her friends was enough to drive me crazy all by itself. I couldn’t summon up any interest in Dominic. It’s not that I couldn’t believe any fourteen-year-old would be interested in him, it’s just that I was so bored by him myself that I didn’t want to read anything else about him. These things, combined with the skimpy plot, have put me off Pamela Dean.
Things to consider: I am rereading Strong Poison now, having thought about it so much while reading The Case of Madeleine Smith that I realized I couldn’t live without it much longer, and I find Harriet and Peter much more tolerable than Pamela Dean’s characters. Why? They quote things at each other all the time too. Do you ever find yourself aggravated by something in one book and thrilled by it in another? Is it just the way the author presents it? I feel very muddled about this.