Over the Wall! & Diana Tutton’s “Guard Your Daughters”

The courtyard

Global warming has come on so fast, so inexorably.  The color of the leaves has changed very late this year.

My cousin Megan and I sat in the courtyard of a closed mental hospital and admired the foliage.

You may wonder, Why?

The view from outside the courtyard.

Megan has long wanted to do a photoshoot in this courtyard. During a hospitalization several years ago, the highlight of her days was taking breaks in the courtyard with the smokers.  She is not a smoker: she stood outside and breathed fresh air. And one afternoon a nurse mesmerized them with the tale of a  patient who went “over the wall,” i.e,  the fence, and never returned.

Doesn’t it sound like McMurphy in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest?  When McMurphy disappears, the patients think he broke out of the hospital.  Actually, he was given a lobotomy for being rebellious and not conforming to Nurse Ratchett’s rules. And so Chief, the American-Indian narrator, is the one who breaks out.

The door from the courtyard to the hospital wing.

Well, we hope everybody gets over the wall like Chief.  But we were surprised to discover the GATE to the courtyard WAS ACTUALLY OPEN.  We sat on the ground and mused on the strange world of mental health.

We took  pictures of each other pretending to go over the wall.  Yes, it was hilarious, because we’re out of shape.

ONE OF THE FALL SELECTIONS of PERSEPHONE BOOKS IS Diana Tutton’s 1953 novel, Guard Your Daughters.  In 2012 I wrote the following at my old blog:

Stuck-in-a-Book, an energetic blogger who has revived interest in many neglected women’s classics, has created a craze for Diana Tutton’s out-of-print novel,  Guard Your Daughters.

After he compared it to Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, I ordered a used copy from Abebooks.  I finished Tutton’s charming novel yesterday, and enjoyed the similarities to Smith’s classic.  Like the narrator of I Capture the Caslte,  Cassandra Mortmain, and her sister Rose, Diana Tutton’s narrator Morgan Harvey and her sisters live in the country and know no men.  Unlike the Mortmains, whose eccentric stepmother would love to help them meet men, the Harveys’  mother  gets hysterical over the prospect of their leaving home and marrying. Their self-absorbed father, a successful mystery writer, supports his wife and ignores his daughters’ needs.

It is certainly fascinating for readers interested in trends in women’s novels in the ’40s and ’50s.  Alas, Tutton’s style is less graceful than Smith’s, and she lacks her gift for shaping dramatic scenes and witty dialogue. (Smith was also a playwright,) Still, I would like to take a second look at Guard Your Daughters, and it’s a pity I sold it.  I’ll have to wait for the Persephone to come out in the U.S.

6 thoughts on “Over the Wall! & Diana Tutton’s “Guard Your Daughters”

  1. Persephone books are often very worth while. I thought most of these hospitals had been closed. Maybe the open door signals a more humane policy towards the individuals there. Before he died, Oliver Sacks (among others) defended these places: yes they were flawed, but often the problem was money, not enough money was paid staff; and at the core of that disregard of mental ill-health, an unwillingness on the part of the public to acknowledge the existence, much less the value of treating fellow human beings with mental distress and illness. But, said Sacks, much worse, was letting them back on the streets with little help, expecting their relatives to take them in. He said such people ended up in violent, degraded, awful situations on the streets. Apparently something has again been done for them, little publicity given these efforts, and really it’s for the sake of people walking on the street — sometimes such people are put in “detention centers” (prisons).

    Yes the worlds in which people with mental health problems live is not sensible because of the way they are treated. The alternative, as you know, is to give drugs, and for some that ends up with addictions that can make them worse and surely cost them beyond their means.

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    • This hospital IS closed, along with several others, both state and private, which have closed in the last few years. So it seemed strange that the courtyard gate was wide-open! Most mental hospitals are for short-term hospitalizations these days, but I have read that there are now not enough “beds” for all who need them because of the closings!

      On Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 6:48 AM, mirabile dictu wrote:

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