Archive for May, 2010


The Silent Witness

May 31, 2010

I like R. Austin Freeman. Really. He’s cool, Doctor Thorndyke is cool, The Eye of Osiris is extremely cool, etc.

The Silent Witness is ridiculous. Read the rest of this entry ?



May 29, 2010

On Friday I attended the first ever Book Blogger Convention here in New York. It was pretty nifty. A lot of the material was sort of irrelevant to me — I mean, I don’t communicate with publishers because most of the books I read are out of print. I don’t interact with the authors of books I review because they are dead. Re: dead authors, I gather many book bloggers wish they were in a similar situation. Read the rest of this entry ?


To those who read Redeeming Qualities via RSS

May 29, 2010

I apologize for the massive number of posts that appeared in your feed aggregators a couple of days ago.  I was updating the tags on a bunch of old posts.

Coming soon: what I learned at the very exciting Book Blogger Convention.



May 27, 2010

The Melting of Molly was nice, but Phyllis was better.

There are some basic similarities — the first-person narration, the particular kind of diary format the author uses, the deliberate obliviousness — but the two books feel fairly different.

Once cause of that, from which most of the others probably follow is that Phyllis is not a widow in her twenties, but a fifteen year old schoolgirl. She starts her diary (which is named Louise) when she and her parents move to the town of Byrdsville for the sake of her mother’s health. It’s never clear what exactly is wrong with the mother, but she’s always been an invalid, she’s going to die soon, and the nurse won’t let her husband and daughter see her because it makes her worse. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Melting of Molly

May 25, 2010

The Melting of Molly is by Maria Thompson Daviess, whose last name really is spelled like that, and it was a bestseller in 1912.

The melting in question is a metaphorical description of Molly falling in love, of course, but it’s nominally meant to refer to weight loss. Molly Carter is a twenty-five year old widow, and this book is supposed to be her diary, written to keep track of her diet and exercise regimes.

Mr. Carter, dead approximately one year, was nobody particularly interesting–just someone Molly married after Al Bennett, the young man she was in love with, had gone off into the world to try and make a name for himself or something. That was when Molly was seventeen, and now Al Bennett, having heard that Mr. Carter is out of the picture, has started sending Molly love letters and talking about coming home. Apparently he expects to see her in the same dress she was wearing when he left, only that was eight years ago, and it doesn’t quite fit. And by “quite” I mean “at all.” Read the rest of this entry ?


A note on Williamsons

May 24, 2010

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.


Book Blogger Convention

May 24, 2010

So, here’s a cool thing: on Friday I will be attending the first annual Book Blogger Convention, which is being held here in New York on the last day of Book Expo America.

I’ve had this blog for over three years now, and I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve kept it going for this long, and, more than that, that I still love it. I still get excited about making posts, and getting comments, and just…sharing my discoveries. And discovering that someone else loves a book that I wasn’t really convinced anybody else had even read is impossibly wonderful.

But I’ve also been blogging in a bit of a vacuum. I read a few other book blogs, but I’m not very good about keeping up with them. So, while I suspect that no one else there will be blogging about the same sort of books as I do, I’m really looking forward to talking to other people who get a kick out of writing about books.

On the other hand, I worry that I’m supposed to have business cards.


Lady Betty Across the Water

May 20, 2010

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 ?


I’ve Married Marjorie

May 18, 2010

So, that “he/she fell in love with his/her wife/ husband” trope I was talking about a couple of weeks ago? Margaret Widdemer seems to be at least as fond of it as I am. I’ve Married Marjorie is the third of her books that I’ve read, and the second one where the hero and heroine get married long before their happy ending. It’s not as straightforward an example of the trope as The Rose-Garden Husband, but I don’t think that’s the reason that the book isn’t quite successful.

I wasn’t this angry about the book when I was reading it — I do find it easy to let a book’s internal logic take me where it will, and there was all this interesting, half-heartedly psychological stuff that reminded me of Eleanor Hallowell Abbott — but the more I think about it now, the less I like it. Read the rest of this entry ?


Torchy Again

May 13, 2010

I have now read all of the Torchy books, and realized two things:

1. The bibliography I was looking at is wrong, and The House of Torchy comes between Wilt Thou Torchy and Torchy and Vee, not after Torchy as a Pa. It’s important to know that, too, because if you skip it you go straight from Torchy getting married yo Vee to Torchy living on Long Island with Vee and an infant son and a French cook/gardener, and doing his work for the Corrugated Trust under the auspices of the US Army.

I kind of love it when authors deal with wars by having their series characters reassigned to their usual jobs by the Army.

2. Torchy and Vee are the best early 20th century fictional couple ever. It’s not just that they talk to each other about all sorts of things, that they laugh together, that they like each other as much as they love each other but done always understand each other. It’s also that Vee, the beautiful heiress, wasn’t even the tiniest bit reserved or distant from the beginning. And that Torchy kisses her pretty early on in their friendship (and frequently thereafter), and she doesn’t really get upset. And that they’re always touching each other–they hug, and hold hands, and Vee rumples Torchy’s hair–and it’s almost shocking, because I’ve never before come across fictional characters from this era who were so casually affectionate. It’s kind of great.



May 7, 2010

After I finished The Circular Staircase and The House of a Thousand Candles, I thought I’d continue on a Mary Roberts Rinehart kick. And I liked Tish, one of her books of stories about an eccentric spinster and her friends, but it didn’t make me want to read more Tish books. It made me want to reread Torchy.

Torchy is, like Tish, a character in a long-running series of short stories. But his are better than hers. I meant just to reread Torchy, but once I was done with that, I read Trying Out Torchy, On With Torchy, Torchy, Private Sec., and Wilt Thou Torchy and now I’m in the middle of Torchy and Vee. Read the rest of this entry ?


The House of a Thousand Candles

May 5, 2010

Circumstances conspired to make me compare The House of a Thousand Candles to The Circular Staircase. First, I started reading them at the same time–the Rinehart on my Kindle, the Nicholson on my phone. Then, when I googled Meredith Nicholson, I came up with an article on Michael Grost’s Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection that explicitly compared the two. So most of the time that I was reading the Nicholson book, I was thinking about Rinehart. And I was expecting Nicholson to compare pretty badly.

The thing I’ve always said about Mary Roberts Rinehart–at least to myself–is that her best quality is her sense of humor. And apparently Rinehart agreed, saying that the problem with her competitors was a lack of humor. Mike Grost offers The House of a Thousand Candles as an example of those humorless competitors, but I think he’s being a little unfair. I can think of much worse offenders. Anna Katherine Green, for one. But because of Grost’s piece, I was expecting House of a Thousand Candles to be pretty bad, so I ended up being pleasantly surprised–and that’s not a bad thing to be. Read the rest of this entry ?


Patty’s Butterfly Days

May 5, 2010

I had meant to finish writing about the Patty Fairfield books in order at some indefinite point in the future, but I had a hankering to reread Patty’s Butterfly Days this week.

Butterfly Days is one of my favorites, I think. I’m pretty sure the only one I’ve read more often is Patty’s Summer Days. In it, Patty is left alone at the seaside with her friend Mona while Mr. Fairfield and Nan take a trip to the mountains. Mona lives in a big, over-decorated mansion, and she and Patty go to a lot of parties, give a few themselves, and are generally unproductive members of society. It’s really enjoyable.

I, um, don’t think I’ve ever had to to this before, but: SPOILERS AHEAD. Read the rest of this entry ?