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 ?
Posts Tagged ‘williamsons’
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 ?
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.
The worst thing about terrible mystery novels — the kind where the hero judges everyone on the most shallow grounds imaginable, and every tenuous connection is treated as a solid deduction — is that you can make fun of the hero all you want for assuming the Egyptian guy he’s found in the phone book (apparently this is a phone book that sorts by nationality?) is the same mysterious Egyptian guy who might have upset the girl he’s fallen in love at first sight with, but in the end you know the hero is going to be proven right. Read the rest of this entry ?
I’m fascinated by anonymous novels. I love seeing ads in old Publisher’s Weeklys claiming that a new novel is written by a bestselling author who’s concealing his or her name to see how it’ll affect sales. I think it’s amazing that people used to be able to publish anonymous sequels to other authors’ books. When I can find it, I love speculation about who the real author might be.
To M.L.G.; or He Who Passed is an anonymous novel from 1912 that purports to be the autobiography of a successful American actress. She’s fallen in love with an Englishman, and he with her, but she’s scared to tell him about her somewhat disreputable past face to face, so she’s decided to publish it as a book instead. Read the rest of this entry ?
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.
A commenter on my post at Edwardian Promenade asked for recommendations of Edwardian Era novels with strong female characters. I thought I’d repost my reply here, along with a request for recommendations from you guys. There are undoubtedly not enough strong female characters in early 20th century popular fiction, but with our combined knowledge, I’m sure we can put together a longer list than this.
I have a few recommendations, none of which are exactly in the right period. I hope they help anyway.
The first book featuring Emma McChesney was published in, I think, 1915. Mrs. McChesney is probably the strongest character I’ve come across in early 20th century fiction, period.
A Woman Named Smith, from 1919, is one of my favorite books, mostly because the heroine, Sophy, discovers over the course of the book that she’s a lot stronger and more capable than she thought.
Lady Peggy O’Malley is from 1915-ish, and her book is in part a WWI one. Her family is horrible, but she rises above them, and retains her spunk and pluckiness almost until the last page.
Lois Cayley is a self-proclaimed adventuress from…sometime between 1895 and 1900. She becomes a maid, a bicycle advertisement, a typist, and a reporter, and although the book bogs down towards the end, the earlier parts make up for it.
But that’s what this is. I seem to have been focusing on the visual lately: art books, comic books, television shows, etc. Also I’ve been reading Nero Wolfe again, which I guess is always dangerous.
Can anyone tempt me back to the wonderful world of pre-1930 popular fiction? I’d love recommendations, especially for early motoring novels, like From the Car Behind, and most of the Williamsons’ output.
Can we talk about the Williamsons? I am getting frustrated. Too many of their books involve people disguising themselves as chauffeurs. And, on reflection, I don’t think I’ve read anything by them that didn’t involve anyone going incognito. It’s a problem.
So, Lady Betty Across the Water is by the Williamsons, but for the second Williamson book in a row, I was constantly reminded of Elinor Glyn. And this time, it wasn’t just a general feeling of Glynishness: my major recurring thought was, “this happened in Elizabeth Visits America, didn’t it?”
The answer, for about fifty percent of the events of Lady Betty, is yes. But apparently Lady Betty came first. I’m…actually probably going to have to work at not resenting it for that. Not that Elizabeth Visits America is significantly better, or that I didn’t really enjoy Lady Betty. It’s just that Elizabeth so embodies the kind of character that she and Lady Betty both are, that Lady Betty is always going to seem like an imitation. Read the rest of this entry ?
The Port of Adventure is mostly typical Williamsons — part romance, part travelogue, and a dash of adventure — but something about it leaves an Elinor Glyn-ish taste in my mouth. Maybe it’s the girl from Europe (sort of) traveling through the U.S., as in Elizabeth Visits America, or the unhappy marriage to a European prince, as in The Reason Why and Three Weeks, or the villainess’ generally Glyn-ish aspect, or the red-haired, green-eyed writer who seems like she could have been based on Glyn herself. So, yeah, there are lots of reasons, and much as I enjoy the Williamsons, they don’t compare well when they try to edge into Glyn’s territory. They don’t have her flair for melodrama, or the sharp sense of humor that makes it bearable.
Still, I got pretty invested in the relationship between princess-by-marriage Angela, traveling as a young widow, and former cowboy Nick, using his new oil fortune to see more of the country. They really do seem to have things in common, beyond both being rich and good-looking, but it’s hard to believe that two people can simultaneously instinctively understand each other and constantly misinterpret each others’ actions. Also, there’s a scene where Nick rescues Angela from stampeding cattle in the canary yellow car he named after her, which is probably the most hilarious thing ever to happen in a Williamsons book.
While I was away on vacation, I read four more Christmas stories: Little Maid Marian, by Amy Blanchard; The Christmas Child, by Hesba Stretton; Rosemary, by A.M and C.N. Williamson; and The Romance of a Christmas Card, by Kate Douglas Wiggin. And I think I have a pretty good idea now of what a Christmas Story is supposed to involve.
First, and most obviously, there is the moral. There is no point to a Christmas story without a moral. Usually the moral has to do with forgiveness.
Equally important is the happy ending, although there is a way around this: if your story is really miserable, you can get away with an ending that’s a bit of a downer.
There also seems to be a sort of age requirement. Apparently, by the beginning of the twentieth century, it was no longer acceptable to write a Christmas story about an old guy. Sorry, Scrooge. The protagonist must be either a small and adorable child, or a young man or woman of about the right age to be falling in love.
Finally, as much of the story as possible has to be set at Christmastime. But not necessarily the same Christmastime. I think of it as the fourth classical unity. This has become one of my favorite things about Christmas stories. I really like it when they skip from one Christmas to the next, and then spend half of the second one recounting what’s happened during the course of the year. Read the rest of this entry ?
I enjoyed Secret History Revealed by Lady Peggy O’Malley so much that I immediately went in search of another book by the Williamsons. My Friend the Chauffeur is different from either Peggy O’Malley or It Happened in Egypt, but I think I’m beginning to get a feel for how the Williamsons write.
The chauffeur in question is not actually a chauffeur. He is Lord Terence Barrymore, an impoverished Irish nobleman (the Williamsons are obviously very fond of impoverished Irish noblemen, as they have appeared prominently in all three of the Williamson books I have read). Terry’s best friend is an English baronet named Ralph Moray, who spends his winters at the Riviera, where he edits the English newspaper. Sir Ralph, in an attempt to make some money for Terry, has placed the following advertisement in his paper:
“WANTED, LADIES, TO CONDUCT. An amateur automobilist (English, titled) who drives his own motor-car accommodating five persons, offers to conduct two or three ladies, Americans preferred, to any picturesque centres in Europe which they may desire to visit. Car has capacity for carrying small luggage, and is of best type. Journeys of about 100 miles a day. Novel and delightful way of travelling; owner of car well up in history, art, and architecture of different countries. Inclusive terms five guineas a day each, or slight reduction made for extensive trip. Address—”
Read the rest of this entry ?