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 ?
Posts Tagged ‘travel’
Someday I’m going to run out of books by the Williamsons where some people go on a road trip through part of Europe and at least one person isn’t what they seem and someone falls in love with the chauffeur. And on that day I will be very sad.
The Motor Maid has some really, really great bits, but mostly I enjoyed it as a good example of the Williamsons’ mini genre. (Has anyone encountered one of these chauffeurs-and-sightseeing-and-incognito books written by anyone else?) See, on one hand there’s the beginning, which takes place on a train and has a rough parallel to the beginning of Miss Cayley’s Adventures and made me think I might be starting my new favorite Williamsons book, but on the other hand this might be the snobbiest Williamsons book ever. Read the rest of this entry ?
In 1913, a Chicago publishing house called Reilly & Britton offered a $10,000 prize for the best manuscript submitted to them. About five hundred manuscripts were submitted, and eventually it was announced that Leona Dalrymple (later the author of Jimsy: the Christmas Kid) had won the prize for her novel Diane of the Green Van. She had also submitted another manuscript to the competition, and they were going to publish that, too.
So, is Diane of the Green Van worthy of the prize? Not having seen the other manuscripts, I obviously can’t judge, but this one? Is insane. Read the rest of this entry ?
I’ve read it now. It’s lovely. Why do people use “women’s fiction” as a derogatory term?
I was lucky enough not to remember the movie very well when I read the book, so I came to it with only a vague idea of the plot. Not that the movie isn’t good — I went and found it streaming online as soon as I’d finished the book–but the book is better, as books often are.
Now, Voyager is the story of Charlotte Vale — a dumpy, unattractive, unhappy spinster under the thumb of a wealthy and autocratic mother — and her transformation into a well-liked and attractive woman who has a lot to offer, and knows it. First an extremely intelligent psychiatrist shows her how to change, and then a cruise ticket unwanted by its owner gives her the opportunity to do it. Add a weight-reducing illness and her sister-in-law’s cast-off (but still fashionable) wardrobe, and Charlotte has as much of a clean slate as one could realistically expect. Read the rest of this entry ?
These are the top three, and I’ve put them in an order, but it’s not an important order. These are some of my favorite books, and I love them too much to be able to judge which I love the most. I have no idea how I managed to write anything about them, or why I thought I could in the first place. If you asked me about any of these three books in person, I would gape like a fish and flail a little bit. This is not speculation; it is a thing I’ve done.
A note on illustrations: All three of these books have illustrations that are inextricably bound up with the experience of reading the books. These aren’t after-the-fact illustrations: Ruth Gannett’s were done by her stepmother. Russell Hoban’s were done by his wife. Jean Merrill gave Ronni Solbert a cameo in the book. So if you decide to go looking for any of these books (do!), make sure you get the original illustrations. Read the rest of this entry ?
I was doubly predisposed to like The Wheel Spins, by Ethel Lina White: first because it’s a train mystery and train mysteries are delightful, and second because it’s the basis for my favorite Hitchcock film, The Lady Vanishes. But I think I would have liked it anyway.
Iris Carr is an heiress who has been vacationing in an off-the-beaten-track town somewhere in Eastern Europe with her rowdy and obnoxious group of friends. She has a falling out with one of them right at the end of their trip, and opts to stay on for another couple of days so that she can travel alone and further indulge her tiresome fondess for thinking in cliches. Just before her train comes, she faints from sunstroke, and although she manages to make it onboard, she ends up in a car that’s already full. The other occupants are a pretty dour Baroness and a number of her hangers-on, plus Winifred Froy, an English spinster traveling home after a couple of years governessing.
Iris is feeling sort of hostile towards the world in general, so it’s somewhat unwillingly that she allows Miss Froy to drag her off to tea and tell her all about her octegenarian parents and their sheepdog that’s really a mutt. Afterwards Iris naps in the compartment, and when she wakes up Miss Froy is gone. At first Iris is glad not to have to listen to her anymore, and dreads Miss Froy’s return, but Miss Froy doesn’t return, and when Iris finally questions the other passengers, they deny that any such person was ever there at all. Read the rest of this entry ?
I have no idea why I decided to read this book. I clicked on a random author name on Project Gutenberg — Mary Murdoch Mason — and there was one title there — Mae Madden — and I thought, “that’s a lot of initial Ms,” and read it.
I’m not sure how much else I have to say about it.
Mae is a nineteen year old American girl traveling in Europe with her two brothers, her friend Edith, Edith’s mother, and Edith’s cousin Norman Mann, who is presumably named that so that Mae can have an additional initial M when they get married. But first she has to get entangled with a flirtatious Piedmontese officer.
The book is completely fine, I guess. The dialogue is a bit above average, and there are some nifty psychological bits, although I wish the book as a whole had been less down on the concept of young women having fun and taking care of themselves, but: fine. Totally, totally fine.
I liked Frances Little’s The Lady of the Decoration, but I don’t have much to say about it. It’s just one of those books about a young woman who goes on a trip and writes letters to someone at home. Nice. Not special. The woman in this particular example is a widow in her twenties whose husband was probably abusive, although she never actually says that, or anything specific about her marriage at all. The trip is to Japan, where. at the behest of her cousin, she has volunteered to be a kindergarten teacher at a missionary school.
The one thing that stood out for me was the entire absence of what I think of as travelogue-ness. No long descriptions of scenery, no detail about Japanese customs or language, no history. I often wish for less of that stuff in other books, but here I wished there would have been a little more. In Frances Little’s favor, though, it makes for some very digestible light reading.
My October guest post is up at Edwardian Promenade: The Lightning Conductor, by everyone’s favorite husband-and-wife novel-writing team, A.M. and C.N. Williamson.
I’ve been told that Richard Harding Davis was the model for the typical hero of the early twentieth century novel, and you only have to look at a picture of him to see why someone might say that. So I was surprised to find that Morton Carlton, hero of The Princess Aline, didn’t look like an illustration by Charles Dana Gibson. I mean, I can’t say for sure that he didn’t, because Davis doesn’t go in for much physical description, but that’s my point: from the start to the finish of The Princess Aline, I was always much more sure of what the characters were like as people than what they looked like, and that was pretty cool .
ETA: I have just realized that this book was actually illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson. I think my point still stands.
I meant to read and post about a whole lot of Christmas stories before I go on vacation, and I may yet, but schoolwork has got in the way, and so far the only one I’ve finished is A Versailles Christmas-tide, written by Mary Stuart Boyd and extensively illustrated by her husband, A.S. Boyd. Read the rest of this entry ?
As I reread the first few chapters of Patty in Paris, I contemplated just posting large chunks of it here, instead of describing it. And I’m not going to do that — at least, not exactly — but it’s even lighter on plot than the other books in the series, so I’m going to use it to illustrate a couple of things about the series in general. like Patty’s personality, and parties. It’s funny that I haven’t said that much about the parties before, because about a third of each book is usually taken up by loving descriptions of them.
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