Avatar photo

Bab: A Sub-Deb by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Click for book link

We’ve all been Bab. At least to some degree, anyway. Stuck on that frustrating threshold of youth|adulthood, where we absolutely totally completely know how mature we are and ready for the adult world. And when we can’t help but lament that no one understands us, nor how deep and soulful we are.

Except we’re not. We’re still kids, as is poor Bab. Bab, who is clearly far prettier than she realises, moves from scrape to scrape as she tries to enter the adult world that her older sister is enjoying.

On one occasion she invents a fiancé only to have someone with (purportedly) the same name show up and claim her as his betrothed. On another occasion she falls madly for a playwright, only to discover he is married while stuck in the wardrobe of his wife’s bedroom (for very innocent reasons). Then she develops hero worship for an actor, who turns out to be yet another dirty old married man. All the while she could so easily have got out of trouble if only she could bring herself to admit a minor error. But Bab is very proud, and ends up scandalising the neighbourhood despite – or effectively because of – her naiveté.

Throughout this, her sister’s supposed beau – Carter Brook – is a steady and sympathetic presence, and if there had been a concluding story one can imagine the two of them together. A romance is somewhat hinted at the end.

As you read about Bab, you can’t help but feel what a marvellous film the stories would make. It turns out they were made into a series of silent movies in the 1920s, which have all sadly been lost. Perhaps one day they’ll be dug up in a long-lost archive.

NB: I actually listened to this as an audiobook, using a text-to-voice app. So the irregular spellings that some reviewers found irritating weren’t detectable.