Archive for August, 2010


Buttered Side Down

August 30, 2010

I’ve been on a crazy Edna Ferber kick for the past week, starting with a reread of the Emma McChesney books. Up until last week, my knowledge of Ferber was restricted to Emma McChesney, Dinner at Eight, and Giant, so I wasn’t surprised to find that she doesn’t always feel called upon to produce a happy ending, but there’s “Let’s not have a happy ending this time,” and there’s “Buttered Side Down is kind of a perfect name for this collection of stories.” Although, to be fair, the collection Cheerful — By Request is approximately as depressing. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Semi-Detached House

August 29, 2010

I almost wasn’t going to post about The Semi-Detached House, because I like it too much and have little else to say about it. It’s just a book about (mostly) nice people who meet and (mostly) really like each other. Also it’s very funny. I wholeheartedly recommend it.


ETA: The link above goes to the UPenn Celebration of Women Writers page, which is awesome, and worth browsing, but the book is also available at Google Books.


The Semi-Attached Couple

August 24, 2010

A couple of months ago, I was unexpectedly sent a boxful of Virago Modern Classics. One of them contained Emily Eden’s two novels, The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House. People kept telling me as I was reading that they really liked the title of my book, and I kept having to explain that it was actually two books. The titles are still pretty good, I think.

There’s a quote on the back of this book — no, wait: there are three quotes on the back, and all three compare Eden to Jane Austen. One of them, the one I’ve seen several times before, says that Emily Eden is the person whose books you read when you’ve finished all of Austen. I hesitate to say I’ve read all of Jane Austen — I don’t feel like I need to read all of her juvenilia, and having read one of the unfinished novels, I’m not terribly interested in reading the other. I’m not sure if the number of times I’ve read Lady Susan counts for anything. Anyway, I’m a fan.

You can see the Jane Austen comparisons from the start of The Semi-Attached Couple, which was written in 1829, but not published until after the success of The Semi-Detached House, which was released in 1859. It’s set in the same sort of world as Pride and Prejudice, and one of the families seems intended to draw comparisons to the Bennetts, although for the most part Eden concentrates on the characters who move in similar circles to the Darcys and Bingleys. So, there are characters similar to Jane Austen’s. There are plot elements similar to Jane Austen’s. Emily Eden’s brand of gentle satire is similar to Jane Austen’s. As I read The Semi-Attached Couple, I began to feel really irritated that I had been introduced to Eden in terms of Austen. Read the rest of this entry ?


One month to Captain Blood Day

August 19, 2010

I realize I’m not getting a very high rate of audience participation here, but I’d appreciate it if you could take the time to press a button or two.

And if so, would you mind letting me know which ones?


Strong Women?

August 18, 2010

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.


Reviews at EP: In the Bishop’s Carriage

August 16, 2010

I am extremely excited to announce that Evangeline Holland of Edwardian Promenade, one of my favorite blogs, has asked me to do monthly guest posts there.

This first one is on In the Bishop’s Carriage, by Miriam Michelson, which has been one of my favorite books since I first discovered it in a flea market in Santa Cruz, CA about six years ago.


The Heart of Una Sackville

August 2, 2010

I’m not quite sure how I feel about The Heart of Una Sackville. When I was about halfway through, I’d all but decided that it was my new favorite book, but I hated the ending.

This is one of those “Dear Diary, I have just been given this diary…” books, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad, because the narrator will always fall in love with someone and remain oblivious for far longer than you would think possible. And when it’s done well, that’s one of my favorite tropes (see Dear Enemy), but when it’s too obvious, it can be completely infuriating. Here, it starts out infuriating, briefly becomes pretty much the best thing ever, and then does that thing that often happens in romance novels where the unresolved sexual tension all drains away at once without leaving anything in its place. Read the rest of this entry ?