[LMB] KC - Bluebell and Lily

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Thu Aug 8 08:58:43 BST 2019

It sounds so sweet, doesn't it: Bluebell and Lily.  But it's anything but.
(I'm drawing here on information gleaned through the whole novella.)

Lily says her mother doesn't love her. Is it just teen angst speaking?
Lily is certainly furious and desperately hurt about the whole barn-burning
issue. But she has a list of other complaints, too. Not the constant chores,
she's a farm child and expects that. But she says that Bell allowed Reeve
and Edjer to gang up on her, and always took the boys' side, the younger
children are starting to do it too. That could just be a teenager talking. Or
maybe Bell is backing her proper children against the cuckoo in the nest,
punishing Lily for all the pain and suffering she caused just by existing.

Bell's first comment on Lily: 'She's a liar.' And she left because she was
'guilty and ashamed'. Her only positive comment: she's obedient, most of
the time. There's no worry, no messages; Fid brings a letter it must have
hurt him to write, and her blouse. Bell is just sullen and resentful, no
affection or worry at all.

Meggie isn't surprised that Lily left. She comments on how much Lily had
to do, as the eldest - acceptable in a farming family, but there didn't seem
to be much more than chores for Lily. She also hints that Lily won't want
to come back.

We see Reeve twice. The sort of child you'd like to thump. Reeve's response
when asked to check their farm: 'I did that YESTERDAY.' Then he goes off with
a few huffs of impatience.  At the Lakewalker camp you'd expect him to be
overawed; he's peevish and whiny, demanding that Lily stop wasting their
time, why didn't she come home since she's not dead in a ditch, and so on.
He's definitely used to treating her with arrogance and disrespect.

And Edjer. The smith says Edjer was 'a handful'. Fid says that Edjer would
get almost into a frenzy, running around and uncontrollable until he was
exhausted. (ADHD? ODD? ASD? We'd definitely stick some letters on him
these days.)  Edjer was driving Bell crazy in the house, so she sent him out
to Lily, who was working in the barn.

So there's the child who, even an unloving mother admits, is obedient and
does her chores. And there's the child who the whole district knows is
uncontrollable. Who was in such a state that day that his mother couldn't
handle him. How was it even a momentary doubt who to believe?

And is Lily right that Bell treated her badly, or at least unlovingly? I think so.
Reeve's behaviour shows no affection or care for his sister. Nobody disputes
that Lily did endless chores, she worked hard, for very little reward. Barr
notes how she responds glowingly to the most minor approval, she's starved
for affection and praise.

Bell certainly faced a huge problem and punishment for her mistake. But she
made Lily pay too, and soured her whole family because of her own spite.

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