Jeremy at the piano played a soft valse from Les Sylphides.
Vicky, in a crisp snow-white ballet dress, twirled gracefully on to the stage…. The audience was spellbound. She was some vague wood sprite, here for a moment, gone the next,. The light had on its blue shade, which gave the slim, white-clad figure an appearance of transparency. She finished up with a series of slow fouettees, and sank on to the ground in a billow of tarlatan. The applause was magnificent, and she was called before the curtain time after time.
observations: See also earlier entry for more about this classic children's book.
The edition of the book I have now has been updated, which seems a shame, and the modernizing is rather random anyway. The book is very 1930s, then suddenly the children are doing GCEs (rather than School Cert) and wearing tights (rather than stockings). At the same time, there is a wonderful scene at the fairground: Nigel, who is 15, wins on the skittles and is offered ‘cigarettes or chocolate’ as his prize. He chooses chocolate, thank goodness.
There was a BBC TV version produced in 1980 (set in non-
Pamela Brown wrote the book between the ages of 14 and 16, and that fact wouldn’t knock you out with surprise – but it has a kind amateurish enthusiasm which greatly suits the subject matter, and I’m sure still appeals to young readers (who could just imagine themselves as young actors), as it did 30 and 40 and 50 years ago.
Many of us have been slightly mystified by tarlatan: it is a kind of stiffened muslin, and a great favourite in Little Women and other LM Alcott books, and in Ballet Shoes and in Zelda Fitzgerald’s only novel, Save me the Waltz. It also turns up in Gone with The Wind, but should not be confused with the large Tarleton family, neighbours of the O’Haras.
But for some of us, we can never rid ourselves of the idea that it’s connected with tartan in some way, so we visualize it as a stiffened muslin with a criss-cross pattern on it.