Author Topic: Imagine Violet Blooming - historical fiction  (Read 395 times)

Offline maryhughes

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Imagine Violet Blooming - historical fiction
« on: April 30, 2020, 08:19:49 PM »
I would welcome some comment on continuity issues. The work in question is part 3 of a trilogy - but it needs to stand on its own to some extent. It's historical fiction, set in first decade of the 20th century - no fantasy, no sex, no violence. And written as a series of letters. Totally unfashionable.  If you have read this far, perhaps you'll read the next 1800 words and tell me if you're confused by anything.

Previously ….

Part One of The Violet Trilogy – Imagining Violet – recounted Violet Courtenaye's life in Germany as a sixteen-year old violin student at the Leipzig Conservatory, followed by her years as an art student in London. Violet met Frank Welsman in Leipzig in 1894 and for nearly three years they conducted a long distance relationship. They married, in London, in August of 1898.

Part Two – In Imagining Violet Married, Violet and Frank have come to Canada to live with his parents in Toronto. She writes about her unexpectedly early first pregnancy, life with her in-laws, their summers in Muskoka and moving to a house of their own. In 1902, she travels with her two young sons, Teddy and Ian, to visit her parents in England. In 1906, her father dies in England. Meanwhile, Frank's career as a concert pianist is thriving and Violet is gradually growing into her role as a young matron in upper middle class Toronto society.

Violet writes to her mother, her sister Birdie and her old friend Lily who all live in London, and to her friend Flo Heins who lives in Ottawa.

Madison Avenue

Tuesday, 8th May 1906

32 Madison Ave.

Dear Mama,
   Phil and Ian are home at last. My two dear brave little boys are much better and that is a tremendous relief. Honestly, Mama, I have not been sleeping well for weeks. They were discharged from the Isolation Hospital last Thursday and while they are still very weak and pale, they have survived diphtheria!
   I felt so badly for them being locked up in the hospital. Although Frank and I still feel that it was the only thing to do. I felt a little guilty too, perhaps because I was unable to do anything for them. We think it helped that they were together, and Ian, being the “big brother” took his responsibilities seriously. We are exceedingly happy to have them home.
   It was very thoughtful of you to send them each a new book as, of course, all their own books had to be destroyed. Thank you, dear Mama.
   Once again Teddy escaped the diphtheria. I am afraid there will be no birthday party for him this year but he is being very grown-up about that for a seven year old. I am confident that our home is clear of infection, but I do not think other parents would care to have their children come into our house just yet. I shall have to make it up to him next year.
   My Frank is away at present, in Cincinnati for their famous Music Festival, which allows me the leisure to catch up on correspondence. And usually I would spend a little more time with my fiddle but looking after the children seems to be taking all my energy.
   I am pleased he is travelling with Dr. Fisher, as it should give the two of them ample opportunity to talk over Dr. Fisher's proposal. Dr. Fisher wants his Conservatory to have a symphony orchestra along the lines of the European conservatories, and he has suggested that Frank may be the right man to lead that orchestra. I say it is about time the Conservatory had a full symphony orchestra, not just the string group. However, just what the terms may be has yet to be finalized. And there could be some small discomfort in store for Frank if he leaves the College of Music.
   I was surprised to learn that there is a major music festival in Cincinnati. But surely it is not a big place, and it is in Ohio for goodness sakes! But I found out that a generation or so ago, there was a significant immigration of Germans. They brought their well known appetite for music with them, and along with the English, who are so good at running committees and such, there is a happy combination of talent and ability in that town. Interesting don't you think?
   Frank was looking forward to a performance there of the Ninth – the Immortal, as we used to say – and Sir Edward Elgar himself will travel to Cincinnati to conduct his Dream of Gerontius.
   Thank you, Mama, for sending on Jack's letter. Even if it is more than two months old, it is good to have some news of my adventurous young brother. You are quite right, that it would be foolish of him to write everything out twice. I was sorry to hear he had such a poor harvest, but by now I suppose it is nearly winter in South Africa. Things are very different there, are they not? Is it at all like Australia, do you think?
   Having missed out on the cottage last summer altogether, I am looking forward to spending several weeks in Muskoka this year. When will you be going to Belmont House for your holiday? Do write and let me know.


15th May,1906

Dear Lily,
   Honestly Lily, I am at sixes and sevens these days. What the future holds is very unclear and I have to admit, 'tis most unsettling. And with Ian and Phil still convalescent, we are just living day to day.
   Frank has returned from a music festival in Cincinnati where he and Dr. Fisher of the Toronto Conservatory of Music spent considerable time discussing the possibility of establishing an orchestra at the Con. But things are very much up in the air. Dr. Fisher has made Frank an offer, but there is a great deal to work out. For example, Dr. Fisher wants to have advanced students play in the new orchestra. But Frank does not think that a purely student orchestra can achieve the quality he wants. Is this orchestra meant only to provide performance experience for students or can it play a larger role in the musical life of this city? There are many questions to be answered.
   Before he went away, Frank took part in a unique performance of dramatic readings. It was the kind of event you would have enjoyed, Lily. I do admire my husband's appetite for taking on something new. These readings were given by his colleague Mr. Robert S. Pigott and Frank provided the musical accompaniment. We must thank Mr. Pigott for the idea; he has a fine sense of the theatrical. And when they perform together, Frank's quieter demeanour strikes just the right balance. Frank had studied the poems thoroughly and the reviews said he was very sympathetic in his accompaniments.
   Everyone was there, and as I had been pent up at home for a month, it was grand to be out and socializing. My new friend Mrs. Oliphant was there, and I spoke with the wonderful Madame Albertini, who always has such interesting conversation. Mr. Pigott had arranged to have the platform elaborately decorated with greenery and daisies and daffodils, all arranged in quaint brass urns. Just the thing for a spring evening. Some people say they prefer an unadorned stage, but for this performance, some décor was suitable.
   I will let you know how things go with the Conservatory.


1st June, 1906

Dear Flo,
    I am glad you liked our small gift and hope that you and little Donny have now had plenty of time to recover from your travail. It sounds as if your nurse was thoroughly disagreeable. How tiresome! Good for Harry, stepping in and insisting she stop hectoring you. What a good husband he is! One is so vulnerable at those times, tears come altogether too easily, do they not?
   Phil and Ian seem stronger every day but I am still insisting on afternoon naps for both of them. But now they are complaining of the enforced rest. I have often used their nap time to play my violin, but at the moment it seems unfair to be making music whilst I make them stay quiet.
   One big decision has been taken: Frank has officially announced his departure from the College of Music and Dr. Torrington has wished him well. We were both a little anxious, wondering how Dr. Torrington would react to Frank's leaving. After all, Frank has been at the College for nearly ten years, and he was quite the favourite in the early years. But Dr. T. was very gracious about it. There are still many details to be worked out with Dr. Fisher and the Conservatory, but Frank is optimistic that their talks will reach a happy conclusion.
   And there was more surprising news. Dr. Torrington has postponed the College's Closing Concert. This has been a tradition for years and has become a major musical event, rather bringing the season here to a close. Instead the “Closing Concert” will take place at the beginning of the new term in September which will seem odd. Dr. Torrington leaves for the west in a few days, to preside over the College's own examinations. I suppose that is one reason for postponing the Closing Concert.
   And Harry Field, who taught Frank twenty years ago,now talks of returning to Germany for good! He has been back in Toronto for just two years. I can only conclude that he finds living in Germany more satisfactory, as in many ways it would be. One might be just the wee bit tempted, if it were not for four children and more importantly, this opportunity to start a real symphony orchestra. So, yes, there are a great many changes at the Toronto College of Music.
   On a lighter note, I was very pleased to have an invitation to a supper party at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Cox. Mr. Cox is manager of the main office of Canada Life Assurance here and it appears that he has played an active part in recruiting Frank. He is on the Conservatory's Board of Directors and is pushing the idea of an orchestra. Frank says he is a very amiable gentleman, about Frank's age. I hope that means they can work together as equals.
   I do not know Mrs. Cox, but I understand she is more involved with the “horsey set' than with the musical one. It will be a fine affair I am sure and whilst we do not know the business people on the committee, the rest are mainly friends from the Clef Club and the musical world here. I am not sure that I can justify a new gown, but shall certainly set about refreshing one from two years ago. Thank goodness fashions have not changed very much in recent years.
   Without the College's Closing Concert, we shall be able to get away to Muskoka earlier than usual. With a new little one to care for, I imagine you will spend a good deal of the summer at home?
   I am glad I had some time to write, but I hear Beryl crying now. May likes to take Phil for a walk once she has finished her housework, so I must attend to the baby.

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: Imagine Violet Blooming - historical fiction
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2020, 05:19:52 AM »
I'll admit I'm not a fan of historical fiction, especially where it revolves around your heroine's rather privileged yet humdrum life (no sex and no violence). Maybe things change for the better when war breaks out in Europe. After all, stories require a degree of conflict. In the meantime the fragmented continuity did not present a problem, though I did wonder who Phil was since the name does not crop up in the preamble. I'm guessing there are now 3 children - or maybe even 4 (Beryl?). On the plus side, it's very well written. But sadly I would not continue reading.

Offline maryhughes

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Re: Imagine Violet Blooming - historical fiction
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2020, 01:38:41 PM »
Thank you .. and your comments are fair. Phil, btw, is mentioned in the first sentence, but I'll see if I can clear that up in the preamble.