Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Loud Silence of Francine Green

2006, "uncorrected proof," from Clarion
Karen Cushman
The Loud Silence of Francine Green
"Price: $16.00 (tent.)"
Slightly worn paperback 

A dozen years after her debut with Catherine, Called Birdy, with a few other historical novels in between, Cushman writes of more modern history, from her own lifetime, setting this in the school year of 1949-50.  Like Birdy, Francine turns from 13 to 14, but she faces a very different world than medieval England.  She lives on the edge of Hollywood and is a huge film fan (especially of "Monty" Clift).  She also lives on the edge of fear, thanks to both Communism and anti-Communism.  She's inspired by her friend Sophie to finally speak out, against a very mean nun-teacher.

I found the book a bit forced, from Sophie's father enrolling her in Catholic school, just because her late mother was Catholic, to the shoehorning in of the Jack Mann blacklisting plot.  Also, I thought Francine saying "Ye gods" so much, when she's supposed to be a good Catholic girl, was odd.  (When Birdy came up with "God's thumbs" and all the other curses, it felt much more believable.) And after so recently reading Johnson's Age of Anxiety, the discussion of politics felt very simplistic, even if the book is aimed at ages 10 to 14.  (As with Birdy, I'm going with a YA label, although it's junior-high rather than senior.)  Still, Cushman did a good job of capturing what it's like to grow up in Southern California (although I'm 27 years younger than her and 32 years younger than Francine), including visits to Forest Lawn. 

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