Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did Next (1886)

I didn’t find out until this summer What Katy Did Next.

As a girl reader, I didn’t care to find out what happened to a character once she got old (read: any age much older than I) and married and boring.

I religiously reread my L.M. Montgomery stories, right up until my favourites started to talk about love and babies. Those stories were left unread.

And that picture on my cover of What Katy Did Next, with her in a frilly pink dress (though the dress on my Armada ‘70s paperback is not the same as the hardcover edition shown here), smacked of all of that to me.

Turns out that’s not What Katy Did Next.

Turns out Katie went to Europe. (Though first she stops in Boston to visit her school friend Rose Red, who *is* old and married and has a baby, which likely would have put me off the story before Katy made it to London, Nice, Genoa, Naples, Sorrento, Rome, and Florence.)

It also turns out that Katy’s stories don’t end with this third volume.

Apparently the Carr family reappears in Clover (1880) and In the High Valley (1890), though with the emphasis on Katy’s siblings. (And, yes, there are marriages and husbands involved.)

That’s not surprising; Louisa May Alcott’s Jo’s Boys also appeared in 1886, continuing the story of the March family for devoted March followers. It was the thing to do.

(There are still more echoes of the March family here, as with Amy’s devoted care for her dolls, echoing Beth’s attentions to them. If you’re a Little Women lover, I dare say you’d love the Carr family.)

Still, not that much really happens in either saga. As Katy observes about the tales she tells to young Amy, “The Adventures of Two Little Girls Who Didn’t Have Any Adventures”, these are simple stories.

But some readers “never weary of hearing how [the girls] went to school and came home again, how they got into scrapes and got out of them, how they made good resolutions and broke them, about their Christmas presents and birthday treats, and what they said and how they felt.”

As an adult reading this installment, however, I found it more enjoyable than the first two volumes, which I adored as a child.

You could argue that this is because I am the perfect audience: old, married, charged with children, and therefore boring.

But I hold it’s because I, like Katy, would have sought out the foods from my favourite novels having finally arrived in their settings on my travels, just as Katy went looking for English muffins and gooseberry jam. I would have stayed in an inn because it was referred to in a Maria Edgeworth novel (even though, ironically, the character referred to it in the act of NOT staying there).

So even though I wouldn’t have been caught dead in that frilly pink dress, What Katy Did Next was of more interest by far than I’d expected it to be.

What book has surprised you into enjoying it lately?