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KxBurns
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Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

[ Edited ]

I found it so interesting that Ginny describes her various lookout posts in the beginning of this chapter. In my mind, she is going from simply a recluse to more of a voyeur. Did you get that same feeling?

 

The scene of the reunion/Vivi’s arrival is both touching and a little disconcerting. I think, more than anything, it highlights the discrepancy between the perception of things from the outside versus one’s perceptions from the inside. I think it’s fairly obvious that in surveying the house and her sister, Vivi is dismayed by what she finds. And while Ginny seems to be somewhat aware of the decay of the estate and her own disheveled appearance, she believes these outward appearances to belie the true state of things. Do you agree?

 

The contradiction between external and internal is also highlighted in Ginny’s description of the physical differences between the sisters: “My emotions weren’t played out on my face like hers… Such refinement was not well equipped to shield a disturbance rising beneath it, and every one of Vivi’s emotions would come to the surface and give itself away… but a thousand thoughts and feelings could be buried unnoticed within my broader cheeks and softer rounded nose…” (p. 27).

 

This chapter also brings up the issue of permanence and the passage of time. In Vivi’s distress over the fact that Ginny has sold off most of the family’s heirlooms, she says, “Our family might not have happened, there was no point to its existing for the last two hundred years if it’s got nothing to show for itself” (p. 33). In response, Ginny thinks “Is it really necessary to record and log your life in order to have made it worthwhile or commendable?” (p. 33-34). With whom do you agree?

 

While there are some moments of warmth between Ginny and Vivi, I think the chapter ends on an ominous note. As Ginny is reflecting on how “devoted and inseparable” she and Vivi are, the kettle begins to scream “at full steam, shrill and desperate,” which I interpret as a metaphor for the fact that the tension between the sisters is building to a boiling point.

 

What in this chapter caught your attention?

 

Karen



Message Edited by KxBurns on 03-03-2008 07:44 PM
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Charlottesweb1
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

Vivien comes home clearly with an agenda.
She spends a considerable amount of time searching the house for something. The reader is never let in on what exactly she is hoping to find. Ginny finds Vivien's snooping unnerving to her routine of having everything in it's place. It is interesting that the longer Vivien stays the more Ginny feels she must monitor her moments.
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carriele
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

One of the things that stood out to most was Ginny's reaction to the dog that Vivi brought with her.  Vivi states that Simon is old and won't last long.  Ginny says she doesn't know whether to say thanks or that she's sorry about it.  She tries to make a cute face, like the one people make at babies.  She can tell by Vivi's reaction that the face she made was incorrect though.  Once again, she seems to be concerned about being judged by her younger sister and we also see another example of how difficult it is for Ginny to display socially correct emotions and reactions to situations.  Interestingly enough, it doesn't seem as if Vivi feels bad about Ginny's problem though since Ginny states that when she makes the wrong expression, Vivi looks away as if Ginny has been caught picking her nose. 
 
The other thing that stood out was Vivi's strong reaction to the furniture being sold.  Is Ginny so out of touch that she doesn't recognize the value of things?  I couldn't help but wonder if the shopkeeper took advantage of her when he sold the furniture. 
 
Carrie E. 
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tapestry100
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

I thought the same thing! Clearly, the furniture was far more valuable than Ginny believes, and I think this partly has to do with her detachment from life. She has no clue about these things. By Vivi's shocking reaction, I can only imagine how much it was all worth and I too was wondering whether Ginny had been taken advantage of.
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BookWoman718
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

I have not been finding Ginny believable as a character, self-described or not.  Surely she was 'taken advantage of' in the sale of the household goods, but she doesn't appear to care about money, so she was satisfied with her end of the transactions.  I can understand her wanting to get rid of everything, that's a common enough reaction to having just too darn much 'stuff' around.  And very likely some unhappy associations with a lot of it.  The house is 'hers' now, not her family's or her ancestors', so get rid of it!   What didn't ring true was that she made no effort to replace it with things that she would enjoy more.   She's a woman in her sixties, not her nineties, and it's the twentieth century as she's doing all this, not the nineteenth.   Ginny, (yes, like me) was a young woman in the wild and wooly 60's, the time of peace demonstrations, the Beatles, and free love.   The author seems to ignore all the cultural things that would have affected her, including greater opportunities for women to get out, enter new career fields, and earn the respect of her peers of both sexes.  And furnish her own space any way she wanted.   Who is this woman who, instead, huddles in her deteriorating house, like a character in a bad romance novel...
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Everyman
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture


KxBurns wrote:
This chapter also brings up the issue of permanence and the passage of time. In Vivi’s distress over the fact that Ginny has sold off most of the family’s heirlooms, she says, “Our family might not have happened, there was no point to its existing for the last two hundred years if it’s got nothing to show for itself” (p. 33). In response, Ginny thinks “Is it really necessary to record and log your life in order to have made it worthwhile or commendable?” (p. 33-34). With whom do you agree?

Much as the aesthetes may not like it, most of our lives are centered around things. Not necessarily things of great monetary value, but things of great personal value. Family photographs. Your Velveteen Rabbit, or teddy bear, or moose, or f whatever brand of animal your own happened to be. A beloved book you read the cover off of. A pair of bronzed baby shoes. An afghan knitted by your eccentric aunt. My memory of my grandmother is centered in a crudely carved wooden horse that used to sit on the mantelpiece in here house.

Things may not be necessary to make your life "worthwhile or commendable," but they are necessary to make a complete life.

There is a saying in estate planning law: "Never think that you know somebody until you have divided an estate with them." It is seldom the big or most expensive things that cause the greatest stress; it is the small things that the memory of your family, your friends, and your own childhood live in.
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runnybabbit620
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

I liked your reply, BookWoman718.  Why, indeed, if she sold off the detrius of the past 4 generations did she not do more to put herself more into a life of comfort? (Or was she being cheated by the man who was selling her antique furniture from her?  We find that, later on in the chapter, he not only took and sold old furniture, but other various bits of the house and their (Ginny's and Vivi's) past.  My thought is that maybe, since this house is so old and rambling that the money that she made having the furniture sold probably ended up offsetting the cost of heating the South wing Ginny lived in from that time on?  (I assume Europe's fuel costs rise just as much as they do here in the US of A.)  Still, if Ginny had a way to contact Vivi about the house, why didn't she mention/ask her about selling some items of furniture to help offset heating/income, etc?  It's as if this is Ginny's and Ginny's house alone, not Ginny's and Vivi's.
 
Vivi, while calling her into question regarding her selling some of the family heirloom items, points out other items that could have had more value or brought in more on their own and goes on to list "the Charles the Second chest in the hall...or the settle, or the sideboard, and Aubusson tapestry, a few caquetoire chairs...a painting, ...furniture, rock-crystal chandeliers, dressers, carpets, canteens, silver, vases, mirrors, porcelain, ...that oyster mirror just there... the William and Mary..."  I can see the case in selling either type of heirloom to offset her pension and to help clear the clutter, but, if Ginny's so analytical (and appears to have been so her whole life) then why did she overlook these things?  Vivi says later that Ginny's always been hopeless with money, but I find this hard to swallow as she has applied for grants with her father for their lepidoptery research funds.
 
And why not put some of that income into restoring the parts of the house that she noticed were falling into a sad state of disrepair?
 
Vivi seems to be returning because "(S)he needs me now. After all, I'm her older sister."  There seems to be some warmth to Vivi's return.  We'll have to see if this warmth continues.
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

In this chapter, I found it interesting about the state of the house.  I think that Ginny tru;y believes that by her selling off the furniture she has done a good deed for society and herself.  I feel like maybe Ginny had been abused and was trying to erase the past while Vivi wanted to remember the good things about their childhood.  I think to Ginny the furniture was just "stuff".  "Stuff" could be gotten rid of to help erase bad memories.  To Vivi, it reminded her of her childhood.
 
On page 29, I found it int6eresting that Ginny finds dog owners "loud, meddlesome people, who unvariably love their dogs in an unhygenic sort of way."  It almost sounds like she has a bit of OCD complex and thought the house was too cluttered with furniture.  I also think that Ginny doesn't want to be loved unconditionally, like dog owners are loved by their pets.
 
I also thought Maud's death occurence was sort of odd.  Was it just a coincidence that Maud died while falling down the stairs while Ginny was there or did Ginny have something to do with it?  And if Ginny had something to do with it, does that mean she also had something to do with Vivi's fall?
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JAZ
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

The many lookout points in the house identified with Ginny's reclusiveness and inability to live her own life. 
 
I think that with Vivi's return after so many years, she was hoping to see something familiar in her surrroundings, but she couldn't have the closure that she needed with everything being sold off.  Perhaps it made her question her own existence?  On the other hand, I did not feel that Ginny could be at blame for getting rid of the furningshings with Vivi being absent for so long.  What was Vivi looking for exactly?
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blondemom74037
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

Re the value of the furniture:
From reading of ginny's feelings about the furniture, it was like she could care less about it. She didn't seem to care she did not get her money's worth. She seemed relieved it was gone (bit by bit)
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bichonlover1
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

I think we must be thinking alike- Vivi has to have a motive in returning home after so many years away. She is so upset to walk in and find all the lovely things she remembers as a child, are gone. It is my perception that when they were sold, it was for a low price and not for what they were worth.
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gosox
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

I just wanted to comment on a  few things that caught my attention in this chapter, as well as respond to some comments about Ginny.
 
I found Ginny's comment that "the more people you outlive, the more your life read[s] like a catalog of other people's deaths" (23) particularly poignant. Having talked to several people about the aging process, her comment certainly rings true. It is also interesting that she uses the word "catalog" when you consider it is a word that also relates to Vivi's actions with cataloging the furniture missing.
 
She also mentions that she last saw Vivi when she was 24 and Vivi was 21, while in the beginning of the book she says that Vivi was now 67 and had been absent from the house for 50 years. I am curious to know more about those 4 years.
 
In this chapter, as well as the previous ones, there appears to be some hints of issues with Ginny's interactions with others. Although I am no expert on the condition, does anyone else think that Ginny might exhibit some symptons of Asperger's/autism?
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kbbg42
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

I also found the "accidental" death of Maude quite interesting especially as Ginny stated "although probably not as dignified as she'd have liked". Did Ginny get a small amount of amusement in it? Another thing was the way she described herself as being the "Captain" of the house. Now that Vivi is back does she feel that Vivi will try to take over?
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GMorrison
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture



JAZ wrote:
The many lookout points in the house identified with Ginny's reclusiveness and inability to live her own life. 
 
I think that with Vivi's return after so many years, she was hoping to see something familiar in her surrroundings, but she couldn't have the closure that she needed with everything being sold off.  Perhaps it made her question her own existence?  On the other hand, I did not feel that Ginny could be at blame for getting rid of the furningshings with Vivi being absent for so long.  What was Vivi looking for exactly?





I have to agree with you here (and I think it puts me in the minority), that I see nothing wrong with Ginny selling off all the furniture, even if Bobby were "ripping her off." Stuff is stuff, and in the end it's only worth whatever dollar value any given individual chooses to place on it. As Ginny was the one still inhabiting the house, she was perfectly within her rights to assign as much or as little value to it as she chose.

On the other hand, I think the author intended to leave readers with the conclusion that Ginny was ripped off, and what's more, so disconnected from the world that she neither realised it or could bring herself to care.

What worries me, however, is her apparent willingness to dispose of items which should have had sentimental value--she tried to get rid of the Jake's head, for example but couldn't find a buyer. So while I don't necessarily feel that Ginny would have been more comfortable replacing (as opposed to eliminating) her personal possessions, I do find it ominous that she doesn't appear to be attached to anything...except perhaps Vivi.
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Everyman
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

Good point! I hadn't thought about how the 60s, which helped shape you (and me!) would have affected her. But yes, she certainly does seem more a child of 1760 than 1960.

BookWoman718 wrote:
I have not been finding Ginny believable as a character, self-described or not. Surely she was 'taken advantage of' in the sale of the household goods, but she doesn't appear to care about money, so she was satisfied with her end of the transactions. I can understand her wanting to get rid of everything, that's a common enough reaction to having just too darn much 'stuff' around. And very likely some unhappy associations with a lot of it. The house is 'hers' now, not her family's or her ancestors', so get rid of it! What didn't ring true was that she made no effort to replace it with things that she would enjoy more. She's a woman in her sixties, not her nineties, and it's the twentieth century as she's doing all this, not the nineteenth. Ginny, (yes, like me) was a young woman in the wild and wooly 60's, the time of peace demonstrations, the Beatles, and free love. The author seems to ignore all the cultural things that would have affected her, including greater opportunities for women to get out, enter new career fields, and earn the respect of her peers of both sexes. And furnish her own space any way she wanted. Who is this woman who, instead, huddles in her deteriorating house, like a character in a bad romance novel...



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vivico1
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture


CubbyVet wrote:
I also thought Maud's death occurence was sort of odd. Was it just a coincidence that Maud died while falling down the stairs while Ginny was there or did Ginny have something to do with it? And if Ginny had something to do with it, does that mean she also had something to do with Vivi's fall?



Ginny pushes,
Vivi falls.
Where is Maud,
She makes no calls?

Ginny looks,
She shows no pain.
Has Ginny pushed,
Someone again?

:smileywink: muuaahhhaaahhhhhhaaa
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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AnnieS
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

Cubby Vet wrote:

In this chapter, I found it interesting about the state of the house.  I think that Ginny tru;y believes that by her selling off the furniture she has done a good deed for society and herself.  I feel like maybe Ginny had been abused and was trying to erase the past while Vivi wanted to remember the good things about their childhood.  I think to Ginny the furniture was just "stuff".  "Stuff" could be gotten rid of to help erase bad memories.  To Vivi, it reminded her of her childhood

I agree with you.  I believe Ginny has some illness or disorder and the furniture and belongings were too complex for her to handle emotionally as well as physically.  Remember she likes to keep things in order.  Also I find it interesting that she kept all the moth books and specimens.  These were her father's like her sweater.  It was what he did what he was interested in.    The furniture and belongings were her mother's and from  her mother's family.   Did she rid of the furniture to rid her mother and mother's memory, or did she keep her father's belongings in the hope that her maintaining them would earn his affection from the beyond?
 
   
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Everyman
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture

My experience is that it is true for people in their 80s, maybe their 70s, but not for people in their 60s (which is my current decade). Most of my age group who are dying, and there aren't that many of them, are dying of accidental death, heart disease, cancer, and other specific diseases which can strike at any age, not of "old age." My mother-in-law, in her late 80s, does indeed see her cohort dying of what is basically old age, and she does feel that she's being gradually deserted, but Ginnie, commenting on a process that obviously she already felt had been underway for awhile, must have started thinking this way in her 60s, which I don't think would be likely. (67 may feel old to Poppy Adams, who is still in her child bearing years, but to those of us who are actually in our 60s, it's still early mid-life!)

gosox wrote:
I found Ginny's comment that "the more people you outlive, the more your life read[s] like a catalog of other people's deaths" (23) particularly poignant. Having talked to several people about the aging process, her comment certainly rings true.
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vivico1
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture


Everyman wrote:
My experience is that it is true for people in their 80s, maybe their 70s, but not for people in their 60s (which is my current decade). Most of my age group who are dying, and there aren't that many of them, are dying of accidental death, heart disease, cancer, and other specific diseases which can strike at any age, not of "old age." My mother-in-law, in her late 80s, does indeed see her cohort dying of what is basically old age, and she does feel that she's being gradually deserted, but Ginnie, commenting on a process that obviously she already felt had been underway for awhile, must have started thinking this way in her 60s, which I don't think would be likely. (67 may feel old to Poppy Adams, who is still in her child bearing years, but to those of us who are actually in our 60s, it's still early mid-life!)

gosox wrote:
I found Ginny's comment that "the more people you outlive, the more your life read[s] like a catalog of other people's deaths" (23) particularly poignant. Having talked to several people about the aging process, her comment certainly rings true.



This is something that is bugging me. I mean, heck they are both just in their 60s, but yeah Poppy writes them like they are near 80, can barely get around physically and all gnarled up with arthritis. Not everyone in their 60s is falling apart, geesh. I keep trying to reconcile how they are described to their ages, but also as mentioned to the time period of the 1960s. There is a lot of distortion here and it may not all be the character's view.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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GMorrison
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Re: Chapter 3: Vivien, a Small Dog, and the Missing Furniture



vivico1 wrote:
This is something that is bugging me. I mean, heck they are both just in their 60s, but yeah Poppy writes them like they are near 80, can barely get around physically and all gnarled up with arthritis. Not everyone in their 60s is falling apart, geesh. I keep trying to reconcile how they are described to their ages, but also as mentioned to the time period of the 1960s. There is a lot of distortion here and it may not all be the character's view.




I had that reaction as well, and I've been trying to rationalize it away: maybe premature aging due to wartime nutritional deficiencies, although that doesn't seem too likely, as Ginny mentions rationing but never going hungry. And we know that there were doctors around, although given Ginny's reaction who knows what kind of "care" they provided. Also, the description of Clive's personality leads me to believe that he was not the most attentive parent when it came to the physical and emotional well-being of his children, and Maud has parenting idiosyncracies as well.

Overall, I'm yet to be convinced by Adams' portrayal of sixty-year-old Ginny's state. Still, I haven't given up hope that this is something to do with her being a highly unreliable narrator than with Adams' skill as a writer.
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