Mademoiselle Misfortune Carol Ryrie Brink (1935)

“What’s the child looking at,” asked Miss Weatherwax?
“Oh, everything!,” said Alice. “It’s all so beautiful!…If you’ve never seen it before, you ought to take a long, long look. You’ll never see it just this way again.”

…said the little old American woman, “That’s right, I’ll never see it again for the first time, will I? Well, Alice, let’s stare.”

I gave this book 5 stars. I am not sure it deserves that many. Not that the book was bad, but it was a bit fluffy and short on any real complication. However, this year has shown me that I sometimes need fluff and a sweet, happy reading experience with characters whose evolution is optimistic and positive.

The story takes place in France with the close knit Moreau family. Alice Moreau is 14 years old and the oldest of six girls. Her brother Edward, the oldest and the only boy, is often her foil for excursions and attention. He is to follow in their father’s footsteps as a diplomat for the French government, although he is unhappy as he has no choice in the matter. Alice is looking for her place in the world frustrated that Edward is the child her father chooses when he and Madame Moreau attend cultural and social events and who has seen more of life than she has.

But that all changes when a short, older female ball of fire descends on the family. Miss Weatherwax is the sister of Monsieur Moreau’s great friend, John Weatherwax, a well-known American explorer and authority on the Incas. They met when Moreau was sent to Peru. Weatherwax has died and his sister, who spent her entire life looking after her brother’s finances and other details leaving him free to travel, has never left the States herself. Now it is her time for adventures and exploring and it seemed obvious that she should begin her explorations in France and with the family of John’s old friend. However, she has given the Moreaus no advance warning.

Miss Weatherwax does not speak French, but the Moreau children are fluent in English due to their father having been educated in England. The children are not terribly fond of English but their father forces them to speak, especially at mealtimes. After Monsieur and Madame Moreau visit Miss Weatherwax’s hotel for dinner, she invites them to the Paris opera with the stipulation they bring one of the girls. Alice is thrilled that she, not Edward, is finally the chosen one and is in blissful heaven as she prepares for what she hopes is a special experience.

In the middle of the Grand Escalier de l’Opera Miss Weatherwax and Alice stared and stared.

Alice shines in diplomacy herself as she navigates poor Miss Weatherwax through the rites of the box seat after a kerfuffle ensues with another opera goer. Alice translates between the angry seasoned Frenchman and the naive American spinster and manages to smooth out if not a lasting peace, at least a temporary armistice for the duration of the evening. It is obvious to Miss Weatherwax Alice is the perfect traveling companion for the trip she has planned to the French Riviera.

They set off on an unforgettable trip full of danger, intrigue, a foiled kidnap plot and further diplomatic trials. Alice comes into her own not only as a diplomat in her own right, but develops detective skills, rescues a precious cat, foils and solves a kidnapping and spins stories for her sisters back home. This is a coming of age story not just for Alice and Edward, but for the entire Moreau and Weatherwax families. The perfectly resolved ending gave each and every one everything they wanted!

“The Six Misfortunes I call them,” said Madame Toussaint. “Six daughters! Six misfortunes, if you wish to have my opinion of the matter!”

[Alice and Miss Weatherwax] left their packing and went to stand for a few moments on the balcony overlooking the sea. A long shining path of moonlight spread out before them on the water, and Alice said, “That is our road, Mademoiselle. It’s all shiny and bright, and all the things that both of us have missed will be on it.”

Carol Ryrie Brink (December 28, 1895 – August 15, 1981) is best known for her frontier historical novel Caddie Woodlawn, which won the Newbery Medal in 1936.

Title: Mademoiselle Misfortune
Author: Carol Ryrie Brink
Publisher: The Macmillan Company
Date: 1935
Device: Hardcover
Pages: 267

Challenge: Classic Club