Review: The Little Ottleys, Ada Leverson

If I were offered a chance to meet anyone in all of history, I would choose Oscar Wilde. If I were offered a chance to have a lifelong friendship with anyone in history, I might instead choose Oscar Wilde’s friend Ada Leverson. Ada Leverson had a beautiful name, gave good parties, liked her privacy, made bitchy-but-not-too-bitchy remarks, and was very good to Oscar Wilde even after he was Disgraced. He called her Sphinx because she was mysterious. She paid half his bail and went to meet him when he got out of prison. I love her. I also identify with her in that I feel if I had been alive in the 1890s, I would have been a really good friend for Oscar Wilde to have and I’d have stuck by him when he was disgraced.

Y’all, this is rather lame, but you know what the reason probably is for me to choose Ada Leverson as my friend, rather than Oscar Wilde? It’s that a lot of people would want to be Oscar Wilde’s friend, and I feel like he wouldn’t necessarily want to be friends with me out of all the people in the world who want to be friends with him. Because I’m not smart and funny enough, and because Oscar Wilde, who was charming, would be perfectly used to people adoring him. Whereas not that many people know who Ada Leverson is, or think she is awesome, and I think she is so awesome that I am confident she would be won over by my relentless affection for her. I would relentlessly adore her until she caved and became my friend.

I don’t think it would take long to make her cave. In observing Social Sister and my adjunct sister Catin Soeur, it has become clear to me that nobody in the world can resist sincere, sustained adoration. Not that I have thought about it. Not that I have planned the campaign I will launch, when I reach heaven, to make Ada Leverson love me.

Okay, I have. I have planned my campaign of relentless adoration. First, I will run up to her and shriek, “Ada Leverson! I have wanted to meet you for one hundred years. I think you are brilliant brilliant brilliant, and I read all your books [not true now, but it will be true by the time I die], and I’m so excited to meet you!” Then I will chill out and say, “Ahem. Excuse me. Please imagine that I said something cooler than that. Want to get coffee sometime? I’m not hitting on you. LET’S BE FRIENDS.” And then we will become friendly over coffee, and we’ll exchange heaven phone numbers, because that’ll be a thing, and I’ll let a week or so go by before inviting her to go see a movie in the park with me and have a picnic. I’ll be all, “I love your hat!” (something tells me Ada Leverson knew her way around a hat), and we’ll have a really nice picnic. Then I’ll wait a while, and let her call me to make plans, and we’ll do whatever that is (dinner or drinks or whatever). After that I’ll wait another little while and then invite her to a small dinner party with other awesome people, including Social Sister, where we’ll have drinks and enjoy bitchy gossip and talk about TV shows we like. A few months down the line, we’ll be texting each other about our love lives and watching Say Yes to the Dress on Friday nights over pomegranate martinis.

And, uh, she also wrote a book. This one here. It is really three books (Love’s Shadow, Tenterhooks, and Love at Second Sight) but I bought all three of them in one volume for $3.00 at Housing Works. Ada Leverson and I are going to be BFF when I die. You can come hang out with us too if you want.

  • I love your imagining of how you would meet her! And I wish so much I had done that when I met you (instead of thinking, hmmm, that person looks suspiciously like what Teresa told me Jenny looks like, but she’s just sitting there not acting like she is Jenny, although she is reading a book, which would be Jennyesque, but why is she just sitting there, not looking at all like a person who is waiting to meet other people and drag them to a restaurant where you have to eat food with a sponge mitt?)

    • *laughs* I had no idea at all that it was you. I felt very silly when I met you properly. I wasn’t looking like a person waiting to meet other people because I knew what Teresa looked like already, and I knew I’d see her if she came down.

  • Eh, I was unpleased by Love’s Shadow. I am joining the Shakespeare mob in heaven. As long as I am close enough to hear him speak, I’ll be happy. eating hotdogs on the outskirts of fandom.

    • Fine. Have fun. We’ll be at our dinner party. We will be at our dinner party and it will be so fun and Shakespeare will get to hear about the fabulous dinner parties we throw, and pretty soon he’ll be angling for an invite, which we’ll give him of course and then you will be SO SORRY you were all luke-warm about my girl Ada Leverson.

  • Um, please ignore that random period there. My hand must have slipped.

    • Just the sort of punctuation an Ada Leverson-hater would use.

  • You totally bought the copy I was going to buy from Housing Works!

    I have Love’s Shadow at home and will read it eventually.

    I see you took someone else to eat Ethiopian food. I am pleased to report that I am still alive after being brave and trying new food groups/national cuisines.

    AND I think Oscar would have been your friend because you are very cool and very funny and you get English people’s jokes.

    • I hope you like it! But I’m not sorry I bought the Housing Works copy. You wouldn’t have been able to take it back to England anyway. However, I will invite you to our dinner parties in heaven. Promise.

  • Your post made me laugh so hard today. I loved it! Thanks for sharing your imagination and your book reviews. I always enjoy reading them. 🙂

    • You’re so sweet! Thank you. 🙂

  • I agree that no one can ignore sustained admiration forever, and think that even though I don’t know much about Ada, I like her devotion to Wilde, who I think was brilliant. I also think that your sustained and well informed hilariousness and your awesome enthusiasm would be appreciated by not only Ada, but by Wilde as well. I think heaven is going to be a very wonderful place for you, and you will be quite the popular girl!

    • I feel like not much is out there about Ada Leverson — not because people didn’t talk about her, but because she seems like a very private person. But what I do know about her, I like, particularly how good she was to Oscar Wilde. Bless her.

  • Smooth going there, Jenny (in terms of planning step-by-step the proper social moves one should make in the 1890s whilst still being daring and witty and subverting social conventions to the appropriate degree). I’m sure if Ada Leverson was reading your blog (why can’t heaven have internet?) she’d love you instantly (as long as you go through with that plan of sustained adoration). I am currently finishing up my first Oscar Wilde and am feeling strangely sympathetic with Dorian since I, too, am feeling slightly “influenced” by Harry, if you know what I mean.

    • Heaven must have internet. I hope heaven has internet. If heaven doesn’t have internet, Ada Leverson won’t know in advance of my arrival that I love her. And that would be sad for me.

  • I love that name. It is pleasantly similar to my own name – and how cool, that Oscar Wilde had a mysterious BFF with almost-my-name. I had no idea! I learn so much here!

    In heaven I am going to hang around the pre-raphaelites. I am really, really curious about their love lives. I may have to get hair extensions and a perm on my way to the afterlife in order to fit in but it will be totally worth it.

    PS I think Oscar would be hugely amused & intrigued by your review skills.

    • Oh, the pre-Raphaelites. I bet they would be an interesting crowd. You know what would be really fun, hang out with the pre-Raphaelites, and then come to one of my dinner parties with Ada Leverson and listen to her say bitchy things about them. I know she would be brilliant to talk to about them. 🙂

  • How can it be heaven if it doesn’t have internet? And hell will be having to meet all the people whose books you hated, and you said so. I’ve never even heard of Ada before. Good thing I like an expanding TBR list.

    • Hahahaha, I’ll just tactfully avoid the people whose books I hated. That’ll be easy. Heaven will be crowded.

  • anna

    text me who adjunct sister is? I do not recognize this name. I guess but want confirmation.

    • Did I already? My old roommate! Darling darling old roommate. How I wish she would come back to America and live with me in a lovely New York apartment.

  • I have Love’s Shadow but haven’t read it yet. But if I love it, I can be Ada’s friend too because she’ll say “any friend of Jenny’s is a friend of mine”. She’s loyal like that, right?

    • Yes? Because by then hopefully I’ll be her friend? I think it will totally work! She was quite quite loyal. I love her.

  • Oh good call to chose the less-adored one as BFF – definitely makes for a nicer person. But I cannot help but think that Oscar would be entranced by you. We all are, after all.

    • Hahahaha, thank you, you are so kind. I think, though, that Oscar Wilde would be too busy for me. At least at first. At least until I am friends with Ada Leverson.

  • Pingback: The Crash of Hennington, Patrick Ness - Reading the End()