Posts Tagged ‘1900s’

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The Dorrance Domain

April 3, 2014

Cathlin recommended The Dorrance Domain, and I was frustrated enough with Peter the Brazen (which I’m still reading, bit by excruciatingly awful bit) that I started it almost immediately. It’s by Carolyn Wells, and it’s about a family consisting of four kids and their grandmother, who sick of life in New York boarding houses, decide to try living in a defunct hotel.

It’s a good concept, and it’s Carolyn Wells, so the execution should be good, too. But instead the whole thing just feels kind of halfhearted. I hear “kids living in an empty hotel” and yeah, I think, “oh cool, everyone can choose whichever room they want” and “they can spread out all across the hotel dining room.” And Wells provides that. But I also think I’m going to get kids biting off more than they can chew at first, and making mistakes, and slowly becoming more competent, and there’s barely any of that. Saying “barely any” instead of “none” is really nice of me, actually. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Flaming June

November 30, 2013
Because why not?

Because why not?

This post is brought to you by my tendency not to think things through before I write about them.

So, the thing about Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey is that she was lousy at endings. Like, she’s so good at putting prickly characters in twisty emotional situations and still having everything be super charming, but then the end is always a cop-out, or rushed, or suddenly makes you hate all the characters you loved for most of the book. Anyway, I read a review of one of her books at Fleur in her World the other day, and Fleur had the same issue with the last 10% of the book, but her praise for the first 90% made me want to read something by Mrs. G. de H.V., because when she’s good, she’s very, very good. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Olive Tracy

October 3, 2013

So. More Amy Le Feuvre. This one is called Olive Tracy, and follows the title character over roughly the span of the Boer War. At the beginning, she’s the de facto housekeeper of her family’s home, which she shares with her mother, her younger sister Elsie, and Osmond, the invalid son of her dead eldest brother. The oldest sister, Vinny, is unhappily married and living in London, while another brother, Eddie, is in the Army, and not behaving as his family would wish him to. Then there’s their neighbors, Sir Marmaduke and Lady Crofton, and their two sons: Marmaduke is a captain in the army, and in love with Olive. He’s also steady and reliable and not super attractive in a way that made me think of Lord Algy from Pretty Kitty Herrick. Mark, the younger brother, is even more dissolute than Eddie, and seems to have been given up, even by his parents, as a bad lot.

Olive’s troubles begin when Marmaduke — Duke for short, thankfully — goes off to South Africa to keep an eye on Mark. He proposes before he leaves, but she turns him down, and only afterwards realizes that she might have feelings for him after all. Then her mother dies, and the Tracy household is split up, with Elsie going one way and Olive and Osmond another. Also the Boer War begins, and is omnipresent and awful in the background. Somewhere in there, Olive finds God in the same way that everyone finds God in these books, which is, I don’t know, either the most weirdly flat conversion I’ve ever read, or pure mysticism. Or both. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Affair at the Inn

September 10, 2013

The Affair at the Inn is unusual in two ways: first, it’s a collaborative novel that isn’t a trainwreck. The four main characters are written by four different writers, and I didn’t finish the book with a sense that the writers hated each other, or that the plot at the end was hastily patched together from the ruins of what it was originally meant to be. Second, it’s sort of Williamsonian (alternating points of view, traveling American heiress, Scottish baronet with an automobile) but without anyone traveling incognito. Nothing else about it was unusual, but almost everything about it was very nice. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Admirable Tinker

July 17, 2013

So, apparently not every seraphic but practical child protagonist Edgar Jepson creates is going to be wonderful. The title character of The Admirable Tinker, like Pollyooly, is repeatedly described as an angel child and has a knack for attracting improbably large sums of money, but the book lacks whatever it was that made Pollyooly so magical.

That said, I enjoyed The Admirable Tinker. Just not as much as I thought I was going to. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Short story series #2: We’ve been here before

June 20, 2013

Check out the previous post in the series for stuff about short story series you’ve almost certainly heard of, and for my philosophy of short stories, which pretty much boils down to “they’re better when they come by the bookful and are all about the same character.”

These are the stories that I’ve written about here before. They’re in order from least to most awesome, which is not to say that the Our Square stories aren’t pretty good, or that Torchy isn’t a little higher on my list of favorite things ever than Emma McChesney. I mean, I put them in worst-to-best order by accident, and thought I might as well make a note of it. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Adventure of Princess Sylvia / Princess Virginia

June 18, 2013

So, yeah, The Adventure of Princess Sylvia and Princess Virginia (the latter credited to both Williamsons, the former to Alice) are the same book. According to this advertisement, Sylvia is the original and Virginia is the revision. But, contrary to the advertisement’s assertion, it hardly qualifies as a new story.

Almost everyone’s names are changed, as are some nationalities. The Ruritanian country of Rhaetia retains its name, but its emperor is now Leopold rather than Maximilian. And Princess Virginia adds some American blood to Sylvia’s mix of English and German. Things are a little more up to date — it’s a different English monarch that provides the heroine and her mother with a home, and there’s a sprinking of automobiles in Virginia that aren’t present in Sylvia. The dialog is a little snappier (as Jenn pointed out), and there are places where the plot has been smoothed over a little, making it seem less as if A.M. Williamson made it up as she went along. If you’re going to read one of these, Virginia is better, but again: same book. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Mystery

April 23, 2013

Halfway through The Mystery, by Samuel Hopkins Adams and Stewart Edward White, I decided that I definitely was not going to review it. But now that I’m done, I kind of feel like I have to. It’s just so weird. At least, it seemed weird do me, but I’m not really in the habit of reading slightly sci-fi pirate-y horror stories, so. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Girl Who Had Nothing

March 31, 2013

I know I’ve said before that no one ever should have let Alice Williamson publish without Charlie, but I think I’ve changed my mind. I’m still not a fan of To M.L.G., and Shay says that The Adventure of Princess Sylvia isn’t so good either, but I just finished The Girl Who Had Nothing and I’m really glad it exists. (For what it’s worth, while this book is credited solely to Mrs. C.N.Williamson, it was published while he was alive.) This book, though. It’s like a cross between Miss Cayley’s Adventures and The Career of Katherine Bush, and it’s not as good as either of those, but that just means that it’s not as good as the beginning of Miss Cayley or everything but the end of Katherine Bush. It’s better than the less good parts of both of those. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Mrs. Tree and Mrs. Tree’s Will

March 9, 2013

Usually the first book of a trilogy is best, but in the case of Geoffrey Strong, Mrs. Tree and Mrs. Tree’s Will, I think the second one wins. Geoffrey Strong was awfully nice, but it was sort of narrow in focus. With Geoffrey and young Vesta out of the way, Laura E. Richards spreads out a bit. Mrs. Tree, sprightly and domineering aunt to Phoebe and Vesta Blyth, is the focal point, but the town of Elmerton — the once and future Quahaug — revolves around her, so you get to see a lot of it. There’s romance here, but it’s in the background. There’s a plot, sort of, but it’s not particularly important. Mrs. Tree is a bunch of bits strung together, and all the bits are really, really good.

I liked Mrs. Tree’s Will less. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Mrs. Tree dies, and, having lost the focal point of the previous book, Richards never really finds a new one. There’s a lot of reminiscing about Mrs. Tree, but that doesn’t help — it just made me miss her more. To be fair, I guess that adds some realism. Reading Mrs. Tree’s Will is a little bit like mourning for someone, so I won’t say it’s not good, but for the same reasons it’s not a particularly pleasant experience.

One thing I did like about Mrs. Tree’s Will was the way it expanded on the character of Homer Hollopeter, who was a figure of fun in Mrs. Tree, but gets to be a credible person in Mrs. Tree’s Will without losing any of his idiosyncrasies. On the other hand, there’s his brother Pindar, who would fit right in with the other inhabitants of Quahaug if Richards has written him with a lighter hand. The same can be said for the romances of Mrs. Tree’s Will, in one of which Pindar plays a part.

So, Geoffrey Strong was a lovely, self-contained thing. Mrs. Tree is entirely delightful. Mrs. Tree’s Will feels a little like Laura E. Richards felt obligated to write a third book about these characters, but didn’t really feel like it. I’m not sorry I read it…but I also kind of am.

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Geoffrey Strong

March 6, 2013

I was going to wait until I’d read Mrs. Tree and Mrs. Tree’s Will to write about Geoffrey Strong, but I’m doing a mystery novel thing now, and I don”t know how long it’s going to take me to get around to them. Also I’m sort of sad about the implied death of Mrs. Tree. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Main Chance

December 31, 2012

The Main Chance is one of those business-and-ethics-and-someone-has-a-pretty-daughter stories, brought to you by the author of House of a Thousand Candles. It centers on three young men and the fairly new midwestern town of Clarkson. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Christmas Stories: The Old Peabody Pew

December 17, 2012

I read The Old Peabody Pew last winter, but couldn’t figure out how to talk about it in time for Christmas. Also I was annoyed with it for being a Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin Christmas story about a woman in a small New England town and the man who left town and left her behind, and yet not being The Romance of a Christmas Card. So this year I read it again, trying to keep an open mind and not to skim for things actually happening. It helped to know that they never would.

And on one hand, I liked it better this time. On the other, it’s still not The Romance of a Christmas Card and, well, nothing ever happens. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Captain Blood Day: Bardelys the Magnificent

September 19, 2012

Happy Captain Blood Day, everyone! You can observe this holiday by reading adventure novels, trading witty barbs with people trying to unjustly sentence you to death, or, okay, talking like a pirate. But only if the pirate is Peter Blood.

I felt bad posting a negative review of a Sabatini book on Captain Blood Day last year, so this year I made sure to choose a book I know I like. And actually Bardelys the Magnificent is super appropriate as a follow up to The Suitors of Yvonne. It’s not just that it’s full of French courtiers for whom dueling is always a viable problem-solving tool — Bardelys the Magnificent came out four years after The Suitors of Yvonne and it frequently reads like Sabatini’s (successful) attempt to reshape that book into something, you know, good.

The bottom line is that sometime between 1902 and 1906, Rafael Sabatini acquired a knack for writing likable main characters, and I have yet to come across a later instance where it failed him. So there’s Gaston de Luynes, who is massively hateful, and then in between there’s the guy from The Tavern Knight, who’s just kind of irritating, and then there’s Bardelys, who’s got really poor judgment and terrible timing, but who I like quite a lot. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Pam Decides

September 4, 2012

I read Pam Decides, the sequel to Pam, on Sunday. A note at the beginning suggests that Pam was never intended to have a sequel, but I occasionally felt, as I read Pam Decides, that Pam existed for no other reason than to provide an excuse for one. Which isn’t true, but tells you a little bit about how I feel about both. I still like Pam, a lot, which is to say that I still find it frustrating and delightful and moving and difficult to describe. But my thoughts and feelings about Pam Decides are a little different.

When we last saw Pamela Yeoland, she had just been left penniless, homeless and friendless by the death of her grandfather. Her loving but neglectful parents were abroad somewhere. James Peele had proposed that Pam become his mistress after he married her cousin Henrietta, causing her to lose all respect for him. Eight years later, Pam’s 27th birthday finds her living in a boarding house in London with Jane Pilgrim, her old nurse, and making a scant living by writing romance novels. Read the rest of this entry ?

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