I haven’t read all that many E. Phillips Oppenheim books, but I’ve read The Great Impersonation three times. I worry that no other Oppenheim book will measure up to it, but if none does, that’s okay. I enjoy rereading it even though I know exactly what happens. Read the rest of this entry ?
Posts Tagged ‘1920s’
So, here is a thing that could pass for a description of a book, or possibly a Hallmark Christmas movie, minus the Christmas:
A girl manufactures a fictional fiancé to show up her dismissive roommates. She tells them she’s getting married the day after their double wedding. When she gets on the train for the country retreat she’s planned for her “honeymoon,” she discovers that her friends and their husbands are on the same train, because the friend who lent her his farmhouse has also lent them houses on the same property. She talks the nearest man into impersonating her fiancé, only to find that he’s her crush, disguised in order to avoid the man who’s trying to serve him with a subpeona.
So, Captain Blood Day. Yay!
Actually, though, I completely forgot about it until last week, so instead of thinking seriously about which Sabatini book I might want to talk about next, I just grabbed The Romantic Prince off my bookshelf. I read it once before — whenever Batman Begins came out, if the ticket stub I was using as a bookmark is any indication — and I recalled being pretty pleased with it.
If you’ve spent any significant amount of time reading Redeeming Qualities, you’ll know that I’m kind of fascinated by the way novelists solve problems. In particular, there’s a thing you get a lot in romance and adventure novels, where the hero is situated in such a way that it would be dishonorable for him to take any action whatsoever to resolve whatever issue he’s having. And often, as it is here, the issue is mostly just that the hero can’t be with the heroine. And sure, I love the resultant pining, but I also love watching the author’s resultant struggle to steer the characters to a happy ending without in any way impugning their honor. That’s Rafael Sabatini’s principal task in The Romantic Prince, so obviously it’s a lot of fun to me. It doesn’t hurt that the actual barriers keeping Count Anthony of Guelders and Johanna Claessens apart are strong enough that Sabatini doesn’t have to resort to the completely avoidable misunderstandings he seems to like so much. Read the rest of this entry ?
Outside Inn, by Ethel M. Kelley, is alternately fun and vaguely off-putting, and while the plots had almost nothing in common it ended up reminding me quite a bit of Cinderella Jane. And half a dozen other things, in bits. Possibly because there are half a dozen premises shoehorned in, each of them perfectly nice by itself, but slightly less nice when squashed in with all the others.
So, Nancy Martin’s family is mostly dead but she’s got a group of close friends, and she’s about to open a restaurant. She’s studied every aspect of the food service business and she’s full of schemes for feeding good, nourishing, portion-controlled food to the masses at low prices. Her restaurant is a sort of philanthropic project and operates at a large deficit, and people end up using the word “eleemosynary” quite a bit, which annoys me. Read the rest of this entry ?
I’m exceedingly thankful to Jenn right now for recommending a book that sounded so exactly like what I wanted that, less than seven hours after she posted the link, I’m already writing a review. I think this means my reading drought is over, although it will probably be hard to tell until after the Stanley Cup final is over too.
The book is The Blue Castle, and I expect that some of you have already read it, because it’s by L.M. Montgomery, and if you love Anne of Green Gables and are in the habit of reading public domain fiction, you’ve probably read everything of hers that’s available. I sort of love Anne of Green Gables, just…selectively. And The Blue Castle isn’t public domain here in the US, but Project Gutenberg Australia is a beautiful thing. Read the rest of this entry ?
The Flagrant Years is Samuel Hopkins Adams’ novel of the cosmetics industry. I say “of” rather than “about” because while most of it takes place in a Fifth Avenue beauty parlor, mostly it’s about people. You get the impression that if Consuelo Barrett’s job search had led her to a different industry, the novel would have followed her there. It would be a wrong impression, because Adams clearly knew what he meant to write about, but this is exactly the kind of sleight of hand he’s best at — his ridiculously engaging characters are there to mask the lump of information he’s forcing down your throat and it actually works. Read the rest of this entry ?
I am all set to go on an Edgar Wallace kick. It will actually be a delayed-onset Edgar Wallace kick. Thursday last week I was hunting around for something to read and found myself wishing I owned more Edgar Wallace. I eventually settled for one of Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise books — and then three more — but the yen for Edgar Wallace was still there and last night I went over to Project Gutenberg Australia (is it illegal for me to download post-1923 books from there? I don’t think I want to know) and read Room 13, featuring Wallace’s series detective J.G. Reeder.
So, here’s the thing about Edgar Wallace — I’ve talked about it before — every time I try to write about one of his books in particular I end up taking about his books in general. It’s like most authors’ books are individual objects, which can be discussed and compared, but Edgar Wallace’s fiction is a fairly homogenous substance to be measured out in page-lengths. I’m going to pretend for a moment that it’s not, though, and that Room 13 stands alone and has nothing to do with any other book. And when I am done, I will have described a pretty typical Edgar Wallace thriller. Read the rest of this entry ?
Just Sweethearts, by Harry Stillwell Edwards, is subtitled “a Christmas Love Story,” but it’s not really a Christmas story at all, although it does make a halfhearted stab at the Unity of Christmastimes. It starts with a Christmas Eve meet cute, and ends the following Christmas Eve. I suspect the subtitle was mostly an excuse to publish an edition with a fancy Christmas-themed binding.
Two years ago I spent a day in December at the library and read all the Christmas stories I could get my hands on, plus this. I promptly forgot the title, but I’ve thought of it from time to time over the past couple of years, and when I finally figured out what it was, I reread it to see if I could figure out why it was so memorable, and whether it was as terrible an excuse for a Christmas story as I remembered. And it was definitely the latter, but the former still has me stumped. Read the rest of this entry ?
About a month ago I picked up a copy of Galusha the Magnificent at a used book store. It’s the fourth Joseph Crosby Lincoln book I’ve read, and it’s made clear to me that Lincoln has simultaneous and competing talents for making me — and presumably other readers — feel as if the book of his I’m reading is his best book, and that nothing could be better; and creating sense of impending doom, a thing that makes me super uncomfortable. Usually that first one wins out.
All of which is to say that although one of the major plotlines of Galusha the Magnificent makes me kind of upset and I don’t think Galusha’s attitude toward his cousin is in keeping with his character, it’s kind of delightful. I can’t honestly say that nothing could be better, but if you’re into sensible spinsters, mild-mannered archeologists, New England, and stories about stock sales, you won’t be disappointed.
So, yesterday I was trying to explain how, while I think of myself as loving fluffy, ridiculous romances, two out of three that I read don’t really do much for me. And how last week I happened to read two that I didn’t like so much and one that I did. Book number two was Frances R. Sterrett’s The Amazing Inheritance, and apologies to Cathlin, who suggested it, but I really didn’t like it. It starts out pretty charming, with a young lawyer finding a salesgirl in the basement of a department store and notifying her that her uncle, lost at sea twenty years before, has left her a chain of tropical islands. Which is, you know, cool, but a few chapters later there are three different love interests and the one with a brain isn’t favored, Tessie Gilfooly — our heroine — is frankly stupid, and it’s become clear that nobody is ever actually going to get to the islands in question. Then there’s the enormous pearl Tessie must have to be accepted as the islands’ ruler, guaranteeing an overhanging sense of doom for most of the rest of the book. And the island’s population embodies every negative stereotype connected with the word “savage.” Read the rest of this entry ?
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 ?
I think I’ve explained before how sometimes I find things on my kindle that I have no information about and no memory of downloading. I’ll never know why I downloaded The Pit Prop Syndicate, by Freeman Wills Crofts, I guess. It can’t have been because I’d heard good things about it, that’s for sure.
The thing is, Freeman Wills Crofts was both popular and well thought of in his day, and I cannot imagine how that could have been, because this book is terrible. The characters are wooden and moronic, and the plot is full of that thing where characters speculate wildly and their speculations end up being taken for facts. The worst thing, though, was that Crofts does little more than connect the dots; when protagonist Seymour Merrriman meets Madeleine Coburn in rural France, you know he’s going to fall in love with her, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to be convinced of it — and Crofts is singularly unconvincing. Read the rest of this entry ?
For some reason, I only feel like writing about E. Phillips Oppenheim when I dislike him. Which is to say that this was meant to be a post about Richard Lane’s creepy methods of courtship in Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo, but then I finished Nobody’s Man on the subway this morning and it was worse.
For one thing, Andrew Tallente’s political career didn’t interest me, and that’s what the book is about. Tallente is an MP, the token leftist in a coalition government. Except that Oppenheim’s notion of socialism contains a generous helping of conservatism, and his fictional Democratic party sounds kind of awful. Read the rest of this entry ?
Say hi to Inez Haynes Gillmore. I know some of you are familiar with her, but I suspect most of you are not. She could easily be your new favorite author. She’s pretty good. But mostly what she is is versatile.
I read a book of hers the other day called Gertrude Haviland’s Divorce. It made me re-examine three of Gillmore’s other books, just because it seemed so unlikely that they all could have come from the same person. So, there’s Gertrude Haviland, a divorce novel — and please don’t try to tell me that’s not a genre, because I won’t listen — and then there’s an adorable children’s book, a fluffy romance/adventure/ghost story/paean to old furniture, and a disturbing, bloody, and terrifyingly upbeat allegorical feminist fantasy. All of them are, in their separate ways, perfect. Read the rest of this entry ?