The Shuttle, is about American heiresses marrying English aristocrats; by extension it is about the effect of American energy, dynamism and affluence on an effete and impoverished English ruling class. Sir Nigel Anstruthers crosses the Atlantic to look for a rich wife and returns with the... show more
The Shuttle, is about American heiresses marrying English aristocrats; by extension it is about the effect of American energy, dynamism and affluence on an effete and impoverished English ruling class. Sir Nigel Anstruthers crosses the Atlantic to look for a rich wife and returns with the daughter of an American millionaire, Rosalie Vanderpoel. He turns out to be a bully, a miser and a philanderer and virtually imprisons his wife in the house. Only when Rosalie's sister Bettina is grown up does it occur to her and her father that some sort of rescue expedition should take place. And the beautiful, kind and dynamic Bettina leaves for Europe to try and find out why Rosalie has, inexplicably, chosen to lose touch with her family. In the process she engages in a psychological war with Sir Nigel; meets and falls in love with another Englishman; and starts to use the Vanderpoel money to modernize ‘Stornham Court’.But The Shuttle, which is five hundred pages long and a page-turner for every one of them, is about far more than the process by which an English country house can be brought back to life with the injection of transatlantic money (there is some particularly interesting detail about the new life breathed into the garden). It is mainly about American energy and initiative and get-up-and-go; this is symbolised by G. Selden, the typewriter salesman on a bicycling tour of England, who meets, and charms, Bettina and her sister and, back in New York, their father. And it is about the excellent relationship that, curiously enough, many of the heiresses enjoyed with their multi-millionaire fathers.Above all it is about Bettina Vanderpoel. She is the reason why this is such a successful, entertaining and interesting novel – one could almost say that she is one of the great heroines, on a par with Elizabeth Bennet, Becky Sharp and Isabel Archer. This is because she is so intelligent and so enterprising – she has the normal feminine qualities but a strong business sense, inherited from her father, and instinctive management skills (as we would now call them). If every man in England married a girl like Bettina Vanderpoel, we are meant to think, England’s future would be as glittering as America’s.