Looking For Betty


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by Paula Becker

Shortly after I included Betty MacDonald in a post about funny female authors , this book landed in my mailbox. Where did the comedic craft she executed so brilliantly come from?

Betty MacDonald

What was the real life that gave rise to her autobiographical works? What was the effect on her of the smashing success of Egg , and how did her story continue past that point? Money troubles were a constant theme, but she also went through spousal abuse, divorce, illness, lawsuits, and in the end died far too soon of cancer. But what comes through in the biography is a portrait of a brave, determined, not necessarily easy-to-live-with woman, who was nevertheless able to make readers feel they had found a trusted friend.

Yet at the time it was what the public wanted; her later books, with more broad-minded views, met with less success, leading to an unfortunate cycle of financial and artistic pressure that ended with her heirs owing the advance for unwritten books on her death.

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Still, she managed to inspire a whole generation of women writers to mine the vein of domestic comedy, and was also a pioneer in her writing about women in the workplace. Her achievements and her frustrations were both important, and Becker brings both aspects to light.

How I wish I had known about the house on NE 15th Street — like Becker, I must have driven past it many times, but I never realized its connection with the author. Though the house is now demolished, we can be grateful that Becker has preserved it for us in words, and has given us valuable insights into her world, her books, her family, and the writer herself. A copy was received for review purposes from the publisher. No other compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are my own.

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I thank the clerk, stow the ticket in my purse, and roll my red suitcase onto the ferry. During those same years, she created the four classic Mrs.

A Book-Worm Pilgrimage to Washington's Vashon Island

Piggle-Wiggle books for children. To a city child like me, the Mrs.

Piggle-Wiggle books conjured an all-American midcentury small-town world in which fathers brought home the bacon, mothers left afternoon snacks including wildly exotic peanut butter and pickle sandwiches! A minute walk from the ferry dock some of it quite steep!

Betty Wright:You Can't See For Lookin' Lyrics | LyricWiki | FANDOM powered by Wikia

The second of five children one of whom died in infancy , Betty MacDonald born Anne Elizabeth Campbell Bard moved around the west as her father, a Harvard-trained engineer from Oregon, worked in the mining industry. Not long after the family settled in Seattle, Darsie Bard died suddenly in Butte, Montana, diverting his widow and children from their upwardly mobile trajectory. The marriage produced two daughters, but was unhappy and brief. With her subsequent marriage to Donald MacDonald and their move—with her daughters—to Vashon, Betty MacDonald turned to writing in earnest.

Perhaps it reminded a war-weary country that ordinary life on the homefront had hardships of its own, or perhaps American readers were just ready to laugh. Whatever the explanation, the book sold and sold, thrusting this decidedly unglamorous island-dwelling wife and mother into the spotlight, and a book tour of her own. Judith Lawrence, the proprietress, observes that the barn and grounds that now comprise her bed and breakfast were largely a media backdrop for Don MacDonald, who had only sporadic periods of work after marrying Betty, and whom the press loved to depict doing farmer-like things, particularly if they involved chickens.

There I load up on flatbread pizzas and pastries to take back to the bed and breakfast, then sit down to a purely delicious bowl of onion soup and a salad so fresh it will taste nearly as good the next day when I eat it out of its recycled paper takeout container.

Betty proved that collared shirts don't have to be boring.

Mainly, everyone just seems really happy to be here. Now she lives on Vashon. Outside, a bald eagle comes and goes from her nest in a tall fir, but apart from that the biggest drama in my life the next day is the rain that comes and goes, and wondering what time to open the bottle of wine I bought in town. Just go knock on the door! Something shifts when we stop viewing an author through her work and begin to assess the full arc of her life. None of her subsequent books ever approached the sales power of Egg , and after the red-carpet reception for her first book, and its film adaptation, how could she not have felt her subsequent books were inadequately supported by their publisher?


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  4. Literary careers, of course, come in a spectrum of hues, but six novels into my own I can well imagine how frustrated hers must have felt, as she relentlessly hoped for and worked toward the never-to-be-recaptured impact of her maiden effort. Piggle-Wiggle books; this is probably due to the nine Kettle films produced from through

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