The Education of Patience Goodspeed
Patience Goodspeed’s second adventurous outing finds the young mathematician installed aboard her father’s whaling ship as assistant navigator, but not for long. Young Patience is soon dry-docked on one of the Sandwich Islands for her own safety. Perhaps a merciful termination to her voyage, for Patience didn’t like to be at such close quarters with their uninvited shipboard guest, Nantucket socialite and etiquette disciple Fanny Starbuck—aspiring bride to Patience’s widowed father.
But Patience has a lot to learn. She is enrolled in a girls’ boarding school for the duration of the whaling expedition. Worse luck, it’s run by a dour clergyman, Reverend Titus Wiggins, whose adopted personal mission seems to be the abolition of fun. With Patience’s aunt and the frivolous Fanny Starbuck as newly appointed teachers, and— consistent with the expected role of women in 1836—Patience is to be educated in the housewifely arts along with Reverend Wiggins’ daughter and two Hawaiian girls.
Learning is definitely the theme at the heart of The Education of Patience Goodspeed. No stone walls—if any lessons were lacking (and all of the students seemed to agree the most interesting ones were), whoever possessed the knowledge sought, taught. If no one did, there were always books, even if they weren’t ones that Reverend Wiggins would approve. This is a delightful novel, the feel of which I thought was somewhat reminiscent of the Amelia Peabody mysteries. Perhaps it was the immediate ease with which the characters made themselves known and their relationships to one another unfolded. Heather Vogel Frederick has created a lovely young heroine whose mathematical gift is balanced with the emotional impulsiveness of a young teen. Bigger than life, yes, but she still rings so true. (Ages 8-12)