Posts Tagged ‘1890s’

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Hilda Wade, a Woman with Tenacity of Purpose

July 8, 2014

I never wrote anything about Hilda Wade, did I?

So, obviously I’m pretty into Miss Cayley’s Adventures. So into it that I was kind of terrified of reading anything else by Grant Allen, which is why Hilda Wade has been languishing on my Kindle (and then my other Kindle) for several years. I shouldn’t have worried, though. Hilda Wade is good and bad in almost exactly the same ways as Miss Cayley’s Adventures is good and bad. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: The Bachelor’s Christmas

December 13, 2013

So, everyone here likes stories about spinsters getting back a bit of their own, right? “The Bachelor’s Christmas” isn’t that, but thematically it’s a cross between that and Colonel Crockett’s Co-operative Christmas. As you can probably imagine, I’m super into it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: Santa Claus’s Partner

December 9, 2013

So, Thomas Nelson Page was apparently a Lost Cause-er. Gross. I’m glad I didn’t love Santa Claus’s Partner. I mean, it’s fine. It’s a nice, workmanlike Christmas story with no indication that the author was super into slavery. It just doesn’t make me want to read others of Page’s books, which is nice because I wouldn’t want to give Dead Thomas Nelson Page the satisfaction.

Also, while I’m not actually going to spend this review referring to the main character by Benedict Cumberbatch names, well…I want you to know that I could. Because his name is Berryman Livingstone, and if Butterfly Creamsicle is close enough for the internet, then Berryman Livingstone is, too. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Carved Cupboard

October 1, 2013

I am in general, not a huge fan of religious fiction, but Amy Le Feuvre is my weird, inexplicable exception. I have just confirmed this by reading a book called The Carved Cupboard. I’ve read a couple of other things of hers, but they were full of angelic dying children and dead dogs, and…no. No angelic dying children for me. The Carved Cupboard, like Her Kingdom, is about young women, and its religious focus is a vehicle for the larger theme of their finding their places in the world. Read the rest of this entry ?

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That Pretty Little Horsebreaker AKA Pretty Kitty Herrick the Horsebreaker

September 6, 2013

I’m not actually sure whether to refer to this book by Mrs. Edward Kennard as That Pretty Little Horsebreaker or Pretty Kitty Herrick the Horsebreaker. They’re both listed as being published in 1891, and if the latter has many times more Google results, I’m pretty sure that’s only because it’s the one that’s available as an ebook. Under either title, I’m pretty pleased with it — even though I was slightly overwhelmed by horsiness. I was never super into horses as a kid, but I did read Black Beauty and at least one Black Stallion book and several series books involving young people and horses, and I’m still able to state unequivocally that this is the horsiest book I have ever read. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Weapons of Mystery

December 11, 2012

I keep reading Christmas stories that aren’t Christmas stories, but I guess I can’t blame The Weapons of Mystery or Joseph Hocking for the mistake this time. Project Gutenberg claims it’s a Christmas book — they list it on their Christmas bookshelf — but as far as I can tell no one else does.

There are a lot of things I can blame this book and its author for — terrible prose, extreme stupidity, racism, etc. — and I spent maybe the first third of Weapons of Mystery coming up with mean things to say about it. But the more I read, the less inclined I was to make fun of it. It never stops being terrible, and simultaneously predictable and insane. But it also has a weird appeal, and I say that as someone who had no intention of being appealed to by it. There was the stilted prose, for starters. And Joseph Hocking (a Methodist minister) had named his villains Herod Voltaire and Miss Staggles, which was, to say the least, unsubtle. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Fool’s Love Story

October 4, 2012

You know how sometimes your daily life saps your will to do anything you’re not actually required to do? So, yeah. That. But I wanted to drop by to talk about “The Fool’s Love Story”, which I read on the tail end of the Sabatini kick that started with my reread of Bardelys the Magnificent.

It looks like The Fool’s Love Story might have been Sabatini’s first published story — it’s the first listed on the uncollected stories list on rafaelsabatini.com, and…it reads young. It’s about a Hofknarr, or court jester, in a small German kingdom in the mid-17th century. He’s in love with a young woman who’s engaged to an unworthy Frenchman, and it doesn’t end too well for anybody, really, unless you count the fact that I was completely delighted by it. Which was why I wanted to say something about it, but probably not in the way you think.

This is the thing: this story is pretty terrible. The plot is ridiculous, the writing is more than ridiculous, and you’re sort of plopped down in the middle of a fully formed emotional situation that never really changes. Also, dying heroically and tragically tends to go over a little better if there’s a point to it. But it’s Sabatini, who pretty much always gets me where I live, and I was totally sold by the time I hit “lean, sardonic countenance,” halfway through the first sentence.

Basically, I suspect this is one for the Sabatini devotees — and I’d be interested to know if I’m right.

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Short Story Series #1: The super obvious

June 14, 2012

Of all the English classes I ever had, my 7th grade one was the best. And part of it was that my teacher was great, and part of it was that I realized that grammar is equal parts fun and fascinating — although I realize I may be alone on that one — but probably the single biggest factor was that we had to write an essay on a short story each week. And I could talk a lot about how helpful it was to have to churn out essays and learn to construct an argument and stuff, but what I’m here to talk about today is how much I hated the short stories.

Middle School and High School English classes do a lot to instill in kids the idea that serious literature is super depressing, and short stories, which tend to be sort of single-minded in pursuit of an idea, make it worse — at least with novels, there’s usually time and space to put in a few scenes that will make you laugh, or, you know, offer sidelights on a character that give you hope that they have inner resources to draw on and won’t spend the rest of their lives completely miserable. If they live to the end of the story, that is.

I mean, there were bright spots: “The Speckled Band.” Dorothy Parker. Vocabulary lessons. But I came out of Middle School English with the conviction that all short stories were terrible and that I would hate them forever, with a grudging exception for detective stories.

Anyway, the point of this is that for a long time I really believed I hated short stories — until a couple of years ago when I realized that I was reading short stories all the time, and loving them. It was just that they were short story series, character-driven and funny instead of literary and depressing. These days I get really excited when an author I’ve been enjoying turns out to have a series of short stories or two. So this is the first in what I expect to be a extremely rambling series of posts about those, and how much fun they are — starting with the super obvious. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Edwardian/WWI-era fiction at Edwardian Promenade

February 1, 2012

There have been a lot of articles and blog posts floating around lately about what to read if you’re into Downton Abbey. One in particular, which talked about Elizabeth von Arnim apropos of one character giving a copy of Elizabeth and Her German Garden to another, made Evangeline at Edwardian Promenade say, “hey, what about Elinor Glyn?” Which, obviously, is the correct response to everything. And then I read it, and thought, “yeah, Elizabeth and her German Garden was popular when it came out in 1898, but would people really be trying to get each other to read a fifteen year-old(ish) novel by a German author during World War I?” And then we decided that we could probably come up with an excellent list of Edwardian and World War I-era fiction that tied in the Downton Abbey. And so we did.

It’s a pretty casual list, mostly composed of things we came up with off the tops of out heads, a bit of research on Evangeline’s part and a bit of flipping through advertisements on mine, so we’re making no claims to be exhaustive. If you have suggestions for additions to the list, leave a comment.

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The Dull Miss Archinard

July 10, 2011

So, there’s this really wonderful book that I found at the New York Public Library a few weeks ago. I mean, I don’t even know how to describe how special it is.

The Dull Miss Archinard is not that book. But I probably never would have come accross it on my own.

The book is called Toward a feminist tradition: an annotated bibliography of novels in English by women, 1891-1920, by Diva Daims and Janet Grimes, and it is a list of books by women that have a bit of a feminist bent (or an older-than-average heroine, or a heroine with a career), with blurbs compiled from contemporary reviews. It is the reading list of my dreams. I mean, aside from all the descriptions of books about how having children out of wedlock will inevitably lead to everyone involved dying the most miserable deaths possible, whether for moral reasons or because of the state of society, depending on the political inclinations of the author. But the books that delight in wretchedness seem to be counteracted by books about women founding salons, or farming coconuts. It’s pretty great. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Random fun from The Bookman

February 24, 2011

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On the popularity of historical fiction circa 1900

February 23, 2011

“In progressive discourse, faith in impersonal, agentless, evolutionary progress led, as Lears argues, to bourgeois enervation. And yet, restoring the bourgeois subject’s potency meant eliminating progress and thereby rendering the bourgeois subject’s raison d’être null and void. The historical novel of the Progressive era attempts to resolve this deeply felt contradiction by retreating from and advancing into the past at the same time. The popularity of the historical romance in this period can be explained with reference to the painful contradiction that these novels solve, at least for the moment, through the act of reading them.”

Gripp, Paul. “When Knighthood Was Progressive: Progressive Historicism and the Historical Novel.” The Journal of Narrative Technique 27.3 (1997): 297-328.

I’m not sure how much of that I buy, and I’m getting increasingly annoyed by Gripp’s ssues with sentence structure, but I thought the quote was interesting, and worth sharing.

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When Knighthood Was in Flower

February 22, 2011

When Knighthood Was in Flower, by Charles Major, was the #9 bestselling book of 1900. On one hand that was a relief, because it would have been horrifying to find that it sold better than To Have and To Hold or Janice Meredith, both of which were, you know, good. On the other hand, it’s worrying to think that this book was a bestseller at all, since it’s kind of terrible. Actually, I can’t think of anything I liked about it. Or, I don’t know, the title is okay, I guess. If by “knighthood” you mean “being fickle and selfish.” And there’s one sort of entertaining bit in which Charles Brandon imagines going to New Spain and pining for Mary Tudor: “I shall find the bearing of Paris, and look in her direction until my brain melts in my effort to see her, and then I shall wander in the woods, a suffering imbecile, feeding on roots and nuts.” I don’t know what kind of success he’d have with the roots and nuts, but believe me, he’s got the suffering imbecile part down. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: Life and Sylvia

December 14, 2010

Life and Sylvia, by Josephine Balestier, wins the award for Most Condescending Christmas Story Ever. It looks like a children’s book, and it sounds like a children’s book, but I haven’t been able to figure out what the appeal is meant to be for kids. All the jokes are aimed at adults. All of them. And they’re all of the “isn’t it cute that kids don’t know anything” variety. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Janet, or, The Christmas Stockings

December 13, 2010

I am so angry at Louise Elise Gibbons that, when I finished Janet, or, The Christmas Stockings, I took a few moments to fantasize about finding out where she was buried, digging her up, punching her corpse in the face, and then somehow making her watch a dog drown. And I know that sounds horrible, but honestly, it’s a lot less morbid than the content of this story. Read the rest of this entry ?

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