Permanent Rose

permanent roseWhen Rose Casson was born, it seemed for a while that she might not stay in this world. Her older siblings were named for paint colors (Cadmium, Saffron, Indigo), and so Rose’s mother, Eve, wanted to find the right name for a fragile baby. Permanent Rose, she thought, that’s it. And that’s what (to Bill’s utter chagrin) went on the birth certificate and all subsequent documentation. And Rose stayed, and was as firm about it as could possibly be desired.

In this installment of the Casson family saga, people are still recovering from the emotional earthquake that occurred in the last book, Indigo’s Star. Tom, the American best friend of Indigo and Rose, has been unceremoniously whisked off to the United States to be with his fragile baby sister, and they don’t have a way to contact him. This has left a howling void, with which Indigo seems to be coping and with which Rose is Not Coping At All. David, who bullied Indigo just last school year but has now reformed in a lumpy, genial, clumsy sort of way, wants to be friends; Indigo cautiously thinks perhaps, and Rose thinks NO WAY. (David knows misbehavior based on heartbreak better than Rose wishes he did.) Saffron and Sarah are searching for Saffron’s biological father, and (hilariously) “cultivating hearts of stone.” And Caddy is engaged to darling Michael, and having second, and third, and fourth thoughts about it.

The chaos of the Cassons is the joy of them. At first, it looks like they’re all individual ping-pong balls bouncing around, doing their own thing in isolation. In this book in particular, we see most situations from Rose’s perspective, and she has such a different perspective from most people that it’s easy to imagine her just going her own way alone. But in fact, this family is deeply connected, not just to each other, but to friends like Tom and Sarah and darling Michael (and, reluctantly, David.) They extend love and gifts and terrible meals and drinks and disastrous birthday cakes and guinea pigs and sometimes transatlantic flights. People don’t get lost with the Cassons. They get found.

One of the parts I liked best about this book was Rose’s effort to understand reading. Rose is an artist — a real artist, unlike her father, and not very like her mother either. She sees the world in graphic terms. She can’t read well at all; the words get all squiggly and she gets limply bored at the sight of a page. But Indigo hooks her by reading bits of the Morte d’Arthur aloud to her, and she tries and tries and tries to get at it herself. Where are the pictures that come alive in her head? She can’t find them. But she wants them. And what Rose wants, Rose gets.

If you haven’t read this series yet, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. It’s the loveliest thing. If you read them, tell me your take on Bill. I haven’t got a grip on him yet. But do read them, do.

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11 Responses to Permanent Rose

  1. Oh you have just convinced me to go back to the Casson’s. I read Saffy’s angel and perhaps the second book in my teens but then left them behind. Clearly I need to revisit. I re-read the three Exiles books last year and they were still as literally laugh out loud funny as I remembered.

    • Jenny says:

      I think so far, Saffy’s Angel is my favorite, maybe because I love adoption stories so much. I haven’t tried the Exiles books yet, but I will — I love Hilary McKay! Have you tried Binny for Short and Binny in Secret?

  2. Jeanne says:

    My take on Bill is that he’s the character most like other adults in children’s books–he is separate and unaccountable. The parents, in this series, have more of a part than most adults do in children’s books.

    • Jenny says:

      The interesting thing to me about him is that he irritates me horribly and I think he’s awful, but the entire Casson family loves him. The kids and Eve, too. How is he lovable??? He solves problems sometimes, but just by throwing money at them. Bill Bill Bill.

      You’re right about the role of the parents, and it’s true in the Binny books as well. It’s more true to life than the remote parents, I think. Or anyway for modern parents.

  3. Jenny says:

    I have just realized that I read this four years ago! And blogged about it! I only realized because I was looking at the next one and I knew I had read it, so I looked back and I have actually blogged about them both. I had completely forgotten Permanent Rose — it didn’t even feel familiar — but I shall skip re-reading Caddy Ever After and move on to Forever Rose.

  4. Peggy says:

    This is a wonderful series! I seem to recall I read all but one and then stopped because I couldn’t bear the thought of having no more to read. I think I’ll read the last one now and start over.

    • Jenny says:

      I’ve done that many times (read all an author’s works except one because I didn’t want to have none left to read.) I have only Forever Rose left of this series as well! But Hilary McKay is still alive and writing, so I feel safe. :)

  5. Rhoda says:

    I love these books.
    I wonder who the target audience is though? I think teenagers might dismiss them and yet some of the jokes would fly over children’s heads.

    And I do wish we lived in a sweet world where the Young Offender’s baby is Jesus in the nativity play.

    • Jenny says:

      My kids (ages 12 and 10) really like these. And I feel that I myself am an excellent target audience!

      I agree with you about the Young Offender. It reminds me of the Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

  6. Oh heaven, I do love this series. I think the thing about Bill is that he’s very good at acute care, and very poor at chronic. So he can do a crisis, like Rose needing glasses or Indigo having ?flu?mono? can’t remember, but he can’t manage proper parenthood the way his kids need. He’s absolutely magnificent at the end of Caddy Ever After, for what that’s worth. I think that’s the value of Bill: He’s fantastically good periodically, and he’s charming along with it, and that carries him through the rest of the time when he swans about being worthless.

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