THE FRANCES PARKINSON KEYES' STORY
By ELIZABETH HAMILTON
ROSES IN DECEMBER, by Frances Parkinson Keyes (Peter Davies, 25s.).
FRANCES PARKINSON KEYES is the author of 21 novels-ten of them best sellers -as well asa number of nonfiction works, the last two being " Land of Stones and Saints " and "The Third Mystic,both concerned with Avila, the birth
place of St. Teresa.
In "Roses In December" she looks back to the years of her youth up to the time of her marriage at the age of 18 to Henry Keyes, almost 30 years older than herself.
The daughter of the professor of Greek at the University of Virginia, she gives a lively picture of the Boston social scene summers at Newbury, winters at the Windsor school in Boston.
THE reader is introduced to a high spirited, gifted, affectionate and wilful child coming more and more into her own as the years go by and surmounting with remarkable agility and courage the obstacles put in the way of her marriage not only by the family of her prospective husband (who thoroughly disapproved of the match) but also by her mother.
Indeed, what I found most interesting in this many-sided book (though I doubt if this was the author's intention) was not the picture of the child nor of the age in which she lived, but that of her mother. Frances Wheeler, as she then was, adored her gentle intelligent father whom she Iost at an early age. That she had a deep-seated antagonism against her gay, flirtatious mother is obvious. She resented, as was indeed natural, her mother's remarriage. She was embarrassed, too. by her mother's attitude.
Her mother "not only felt superior to most of the persons she met, and did not give her her due, but betrayed that she felt that way".
And again: "She bought all her
clothes in New York . . She thought nothing of spending two hundred and fifty dollars on a dress when that was a sum almost unheard of for one costume in Boston; what was worse, the styles were so far in advance of any that appeared in the ward
robes of her associates . . that they made her conspicuous in any gathering."
MOREOVER in the development of her own personality and her growth in independence
her mother stood in her way. She tells of her bitter humiliation
when her mother tore up the verses she had sent to the 'Transcript".
"I do not think she could have spoken to me more harshly if she had believed me guilty of cheating or theft."
"Roses In December" is partly straight-forward though rather overcrowded autobiography. partly a selection of letters, including those written by the author to her betrothed during a tour of Europe planned by her mother in the hope of bringing her daughter's romance to an end.
There are family photographs, as well as pictures of Virginia University and a number of the houses in which Frances Parkinson Keyes lived at one time or another during those early years.