The Sleeping Child

The Drink

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Here’s a knockout dose known as The Sleeping Child and stirred up by Alice Grant Rossman…She says her eccentricities are liking cats and Americans.

Half Gin, Half French Vermouth, Dash of Cointreau, Dash of Maraschino, Squeeze of Lemon, Grapefruit, and Peach Juice

– From So Red the Nose

The Sleeping Child is a very girly drink to accompany a very girly book. Unlike last post’s debacle, I found all the ingredients easily enough, with the exception of peaches (you know they’re not in season as the same time as grapefruits, right Ms. Grant Rossman?). I ran all over town trying to find bottled peach juice (no peach nectar is not good enough, thank you very much Whole Foods) until I had the brilliant idea of using the side juice from a can of peaches. Yum.

So how is this quadruple-fruit combo? Well, I think you know by now that I’m a big fan of sweet-and-citrus, so I was pretty excited to try out some new fruity combinations. The Sleeping Child did have just the right elements for me to enjoy while I was consuming it, without necessarily being something I craved afterwords (hey! kind of like the book it’s named after!). Though if I made it again, I would want to tip the maraschino-to-citrus ratio more toward the sweet.

Non-mixologist sidebar: Maraschino is a clear liqueur that does indeed taste a lot like those cherries you put on your ice cream sundaes. It’s very mild — it barely tastes like it has any alcohol in it. I liked it a lot, even better than cherry brandy, although they are both excellent ways of consuming prunus cesarus.

Also, half vermouth is a very vermouthy drink, at least for an American. I liked it fine though, just making an observation. If anything, this cocktail made a good dent all those leftover bottles of Noilly Prat.

Overall, The Sleeping Child a pretty good drink, just kind of forgettable (hey! kind of like the book it’s named after!).

The Book

Or, Downton Abbey, 10 years later

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“All this freedom we hear so much about is a matter of economics, not a mysterious virtue they have acquired by force of character. Why must we always endow the young with either haloes or hooves? They are just what we were in our day, with fewer petticoats and a different vocabulary.”

-From The Sleeping Child

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Illustrations come from The Sleeping Child‘s serialization in The Chicago Tribune.

Alice Grant Rosman was an Australian author who wrote some oh-so-English novels. The Sleeping Child follows the exploits of the Chevenings, members of the 1930’s crumbling aristocracy, who endure their poverty while still living in their ancestors’ manor house, Fendon Edge in the fictional country town of Fendon.

Although technically a novel, most of The Sleeping Child reads more like a series of vignettes, utilized to put Fendon’s cast of quirky characters on display. We have such classics as the sharp-tongued maiden aunt, the town pastor’s absolutely demonic children and their long-suffering mother, the servants who are, of course, much more staunchly traditional than their masters, and the terribly modern Fendon daughters who work in playhouses and ride in airplanes and break engagements and other such scandals. The plot thread holding all the stories together is the marriage between the Lord and Lady Chevening’s niece and adopted daughter, Audrey, and her childhood friend from the crumbling manor next door, Miles Buchanan.

The wedding planning brings lots of family dynamics and town insecurities bubbling to the surface — as weddings are wont to do– and Audrey starts to realize that the backstory behind her parents’ death and her own adoption are shrouded in some kind of dark mystery that she herself has suppressed and no one else will talk about. Audrey is determined to find out the truth before she risks bringing down shame on her newly beloved.

This and several other minor conflicts are maintained through a series of semi-farcical misunderstandings and miscommunications. In fact, this is probably the only story I have ever seen with a romantic comedy-style gentle misunderstanding between a niece and an aunt, who love each other desperately (and platonically you sicko) but are both under the illusion that their relationship is a cold and stand-offish one.

Forgotten classic or better left in the past?

sleepingchild2I was just joshing with you guys earlier; this book is totally charming, if not overly original. It is, in fact, just as sweet as peach juice and as indulgent as maraschino. In fact, I like that the three “chick-lit” novels I’ve read so far are pretty representative of several different subcategories within the genre. We have read:

  • Capital-L literature about the human condition, which is only classified as chick-lit because it assumes women fall within the realm of “humans”
  • A fun — but still smart and socially aware — read
  • And now, pure, feminine indulgence

Which isn’t to say that The Sleeping Child isn’t smart. Grant Rossman was an incredibly capable author. The different story threads feel intentional rather than piecemeal, and they interact in subtle ways. I SleepingChild3also appreciate that the ending was bittersweet (hey! kind of like…no! must…resist…). Grant Rossman wasn’t afraid to leave some hurts unresolved, to leave some resolutions ambiguous, and to let hateful characters go by without any kind of comeuppance. (And boy, can this author create an obnoxious character. Nell Chevening, I want to slap you out of your century and into this one, just so I can slap you again.)

If small British towns full of flawed but eccentrically-lovable characters (with a few toothless villains thrown in for good measure) are what gets you off, The Sleeping Child will get the job done. It’s not necessarily any better than the frothy chick-lit of today though, so unless the only value-add you’re looking for is some quaint 1930’s charm…

Oh wait, that’s totally why you’re reading this blog. Yeah, no, go ahead and read The Sleeping Child. You’ll love it.

Used copies of The Sleeping Child are available on Amazon

Next time: We’re reading Francis Brett Young’s uncomfortably-named novel White Ladies. I’ll bet you’ll never guess what cocktail we’re making.

*Note: Illustrations have been changed since this post was originally published.

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