Posts Tagged ‘lauraerichards’

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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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Hildegarde’s Harvest

February 22, 2009

I tried not to rush straight through Hildegarde’s Harvest, but I couldn’t help it. I thought I loved this series the first time I read it, but now that I’ve read it again, it’s become one of my favorite girls’ series, perhaps second only to Patty Fairfield.

Hildegarde’s Harvest is sort of split into two. In the first half, Hildegarde goes to New York for three days to stay with her Great-Aunt Emily and to sell some cakes she has made (little tulip-shaped almond ones, with a peach cream filling) so that she has enough money to buy Christmas presents. While in the city, she manages to run into Colonel Ferrers and Hugh who have been visiting friends, a number of girls who could be characters in an 1890s Gossip Girl, and all the main characters from Queen Hildegarde.

After her return home, the Merryweathers arrive for Christmas, Jack Ferrers returns from Germany, and Hildegarde pines a little for Roger Merryweather. Things wrap up without to much fanfare, and I’m left feeling a little sad that the series is over.

However, the really important thing about Hildegarde’s Harvest is that it opens with Hildegarde imagining a tea party she would like to give, to which she would invite Robin Hood, William of Orange, and Alan Breck Stuart, among others. She would have David Balfour as well, because she thinks he’d get along with Roger, but not any of King Arthur’s knights, because none of them has a sense of humor.

I love this girl.

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Hildegarde’s Neighbors

February 19, 2009

Somehow I never remember how awesome the Hildegarde books are when I’m not reading them, which is why it took me such a long time to get around to rereading Hildegarde’s Neighbors. I don’t think I love it as much as Hildegarde’s Home, but it does introduce the Merryweathers, who are lots of fun. Bell, the eldest, becomes Hildegarde’s best friend, although she is also very fond of Gertrude (Peggy‘s Snowy Owl) and twins Gerald and Philip, who call each other Obadiah and Ferguson.

There isn’t a lot going on plotwise, but the book is none the worse for that. Hilda discovers a secret room off her bedroom, turns eighteen, goes camping with the Merryweathers, and sort of falls in love with Mr. Merryweather’s half-brother Roger, who is in his mid-twenties.

It’s very cute, because she really looks up to him, and he, while a paragon in most respects, is kind of shy and doesn’t think she likes him. Still, I don’t really want to see Hilda in love; she makes such a perfect teenager. Which is not to say that teenagers can’t fall in love, but that when they do, in books of this sort, they tend to get very serious and grow up all at once. Hilda still has almost a whole book to go before she really grows up, though.

When I say Hilda makes a perfect teenager, I really mean it. She’s still sort of a kid, and plays games with younger children, but she’s also apt to remember that she’s supposed to be a dignified young woman in the middle of playing Indians with Jerry and Phil. And she tries to take on new responsibilities, and take care of the younger children in the book, and altogether it’s far more convincing than anything you’ll find in Louisa May Alcott.

Laura E. Richards seems to me to have a very good understanding of how young people act, even if the characters in her books are a bit on the unnaturally good side. And then — I know I say this about almost every children’s book I like, but it’s a really great indicator of quality — when Richard’s characters laugh and joke and play games, you genuinely believe that they’re enjoying themselves, and you laugh along with them. I mean, what more could you ask for?

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Hildegarde’s Home/My new Kindle

November 23, 2008

The internet is a very distracting thing, and it often gets in the way of my reading, especially since so many of the books I read are only available to me via the internet.

But as of Tuesday, I am the proud possessor of an Amazon Kindle and can read e-texts without distractions. I have had time to read Vicky Van, Hildegarde’s Home — although pdfs are not ideal Kindle material — a somewhat disturbing book of Agatha Christie stories, a book of Father Brown stories, a debate between George Bernard Shaw and G.K. Chesterton, Danny the Champion of the World, a Christmas story by Connie Willis, and about a third of a mystery novel from the 1880s called The Diamond Coterie. So, yeah, I’m enjoying myself.

But right now I’m here to talk about Hildegarde’s Home, which may be my favorite of the Hildegarde books. She seems more like a genuine girl in this one — she’s hard-working, knowledgeable, and full of enthusiasm, but there’s no sense that she’s infallible, which is a danger in books of this sort, and however good and smart Hildegarde Grahame is, her mother is better and smarter. Also, everyone — the author, Mrs. Grahame, and Hildegarde herself — has a sense of humor. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Hildegarde’s Holiday

November 2, 2008

Hildegarde’s Holiday is a meandering sort of book, and it also sort of forms a break in the narrative of the series. Since the end of Queen Hildegarde, Bubble and Pink Chirk’s mother has died, and they have been given a home by the Hartleys. Bubble has been sent to school in the city, as he wants to be a doctor, and Pink has been renamed Rose and has just had an operation to restore to her the use of her legs.

Rose needs to convalesce a bit, preferably in the country, so she and Hilda go to spend the summer with Hilda’s great aunt Wealthy Bond. (Similarities between Hilda Grahame and Elsie Dinsmore: 1. Both have maiden aunts named Wealthy. 2. Neither drinks caffeine.)
Read the rest of this entry ?

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Books I am in the middle of (with explanations)

October 24, 2008

In roughly chronological order

Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures.

This is my favorite of the Ruth Fielding books, and the kind of thing I often pick up when there’s nothing in particular I want to read. But the most recent time I picked up this one was so long ago that I can’t remember where I got up to in the book, and I’ve poached its bookmark for something else. There’s no likelihood I’ll finish this unless I start it again, and it wouldn’t be on this list except that it’s still sitting on my bedside table.

Royal Escape, by Georgette Heyer.

I got this from a table on someone’s lawn. It was sitting next to a sign that said “free books” — the kind of sign I find it almost impossible to resist. And I like Georgette Heyer, most of the time. I mean, I like historical novels, and I like romances with a sense of humor, and Heyer’s books are kind of relaxing, in that there’s enough going on that you don’t get bored, but not enough that you actually have to think. What I do not like, I realized while reading this book, are historical novels with important historical figures as the main characters. It is for the same reason that, as much as I love Rafael Sabatini, I was never able to finish The Lost King. But I still intend to finish that, and I still intend to finish this.

The Economic Naturalist, by Robert H. Frank.

My parents gave this book to by grandmother a year or so ago, and when she was done with it she lent it to me. Frank offers practical, clear explanations of economic problems, and it is fascinating; I raced through half of it one afternoon, but somehow I haven’t had the urge to pick it up since.

The Stolen Train, by Robert Ashley.

Yes, I posted about it without finishing it. In my defense, when I published that post I thought I was going to finish it. Now I’m not so sure. Also, I know it so well that I didn’t really need to finish it.

Hildegarde’s Holiday, By Laura E. Richards.

I do intend to reread the entire Hildegarde series, and I started the second one right after finishing the first. Somehow I got stalled, but I still have the etext window open. I like these books a lot, but this is the least fun, and it doesn’t really pick up until nearly the end.

The Poems of John Donne, edited by Sir H.J.C. Grierson.

Or rather, the introduction. I tend not to read books of poetry straight through. But last week I was flipping through this book and realized I’d never read the introduction — and I like introductions. So I took it with me when I went away last weekend, and if I hadn’t been so busy, I might have finished it. I don’t know now whether I ever will.

The Hidden Staircase.

This was my favorite Nancy Drew book when I was younger, so I picked it up on Monday when I was looking for something easy and comfortable. This is one I will finish. There’s only about a third left, and it won’t take long. As I’ve been reading this, I’ve been thinking a lot about that fact that it was written to a detailed outline, and wondering how much of the content was in the outline and how much the author was able to improvise.

Four Faultless Felons, by G.K. Chesterton.

When I’m leaving the house and I want to take a book with me, and I’m not particularly invested in whatever I’m reading, or it’s too big to fit in my bag, I tend to pick up a book of G.K. Chesterton stories — The Club of Queer Trades or The Paradoxes of Mr, Pond, or Four Faultless Felons. If I had a copy of Tales of the Long Bow, it would fall in the same category. I don’t usually take Father Brown stories, partly because the Father Brown books I have aren’t as skinny as the others, which are Dover editions, and partly because I’m worried that if I read “The Sign of the Broken Sword” too many times, it will lose its effect on me and stop sending chills up my spine.

Anyway, Four Faultless Felons is a fun one, and very typically Chestertonian. I haven’t stopped carrying it around with me yet, so there’s a good chance that I’ll get through at least the first quarter.

The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan.

I only started this the night before last, and I’m finding it to be a lot of fun. I’d be more than halfway through if I hadn’t decided that I felt more like reading Nancy Drew last night. It’s very different from the movie, so much so that it helps not to think of them as the same story. And there’s something really nice and unpretentious about it.

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Queen Hildegarde

October 14, 2008

There are a few kinds of children’s stories you see over and over. One that I happen to particularly like is the one where a kid from a city goes to live in the country, or in a small town, and communes with nature and gets their priorities straight. Queen Hildegarde is one of those.

Hildegarde Graham is the spoiled fifteen-year-old daughter of rich parents. She lives in New York City, is very pretty, has beautiful clothes, and is the envy of all her friends. Her parents, though, are sensible people, so they get worried about her, and when they have to go off to California for a few months, they send Hilda to stay with her mother’s old nurse.

Hildegarde is completely horrified by the prospect. She’s basically like, “farmers, ew!” and she uses the word “intolerable” a lot. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Merryweathers

October 5, 2008
I'm guessing the girl on the cover is Gertrude, but really, I have no idea.

I

I finally got a chance last week to read The Merryweathers, the last book in the Three Margarets series (thanks to Elizabeth’s prompting — I’m not sure when I would’ve gotten around to looking for it again on my own).

This one requires a bit of explanation. The Margaret series is sometimes considered to be the second half of the Hildegarde-Margaret series, because while the Hildegarde and Margaret series are each capable of standing on their own, they each feature the Merryweather family pretty prominently in their later books. In the Hildegarde books, the oldest Merryweather daughter, Bell, becomes Hilda’s best friend, and Hilda ends up marrying Mr. Merryweather’s younger half-brother Roger. Meanwhile, the rest of the family, especially the oldest boys, twins Gerald and Philip, inject some much-needed lightness into Hilda’s too-serious world-view.

Margaret Montfort is even more serious-minded than Hilda, and therefore even more in need of Gerald Merryweather, so it’s fitting that he falls in love with her. Peggy, on the other hand, is thoughtless and scattered, so when she goes off to boarding school, sheet meets Gertrude Merryweather, AKA the Snowy Owl, whose ideals are higher than Peggy’s and whose personality is more down-to-earth. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Fernley House

May 16, 2008

Book five in the Margaret series is Fernley House. Margaret and Uncle John have just sent Basil and Susan D. home to their father for the summer, and they’re feeling kind of lonely, so they invite a bunch of people to stay: Peggy, her brother Hugh and sister Jean, and Gerald Merryweather and his twin Philip. Also staying in the neighborhood fr the summer is Peggy’s friend Grace Wolfe, who is the paid companion of an invalid who lives nearby. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Rita

May 14, 2008

Next comes Rita. Rita in this book makes sense as an expansion on Rita in Three Margarets. But she’s also really annoying. Rita lives in Cuba, and in Three Margarets she was constantly talking about Spain’s oppression of Cuba and doing interpretive dances and stuff. But now the Spanish-American War is on, and Rita’s still being melodramatic and silly and actually causing trouble for the people who are really fighting. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Peggy

May 14, 2008

Peggy’s book, which is just called Peggy, is the best in the series so far, and not just because I’m a sucker for a good school story. Peggy was the kind and strong but sort of stupid one in Three Margarets, but she really comes into her own here, in her first year at boarding school. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Margaret Montfort

May 14, 2008

The three books following Three Margarets deal separately with the Montfort girls. First comes Margaret, whose story is told in Margaret Montfort. While Rita had a father and a stepmother and both Peggy’s parents were living, Margaret was orphaned shortly before the start of Three Margarets by the death of her father. Since she’s also the kind, capable, well-educated and well-behaved one, Uncle John Montfort invited her to stay with him at Fernley House. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Three Margarets

May 13, 2008

I’m hampered in writing about Laura E. Richards’ Three Margarets by the fact that I never posted here about her Hildegarde series, to which the Margaret series is sometimes considered a sequel. It would also have been useful to refer to Aunt Jane’s Nieces (written by L. Frank Baum under the name Edith Van Dyne), but I never wrote about that either.

Three Margarets, actually, can be described almost entirely in terms of Aunt Jane’s Nieces: Read the rest of this entry ?

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