Cinderella Jane

November 25, 2011

Cinderella Jane, by Marjorie Benton Cooke, has a lot of things in it that I love. The quiet girl who cleans all the artists’ studios turns out to be awesome! And beautiful! The hero is kind of a dork! The heroine and this girl who was in love with the hero become best friends! He/she fell in love with his/her wife/husband! A wife in a mental institution!

All these are awesome things, and they’re not the only ones, but Cinderella Jane mostly didn’t work for me for two reasons: first, there was a lot of philosophizing of the kind that can be uncomfortable for a modern reader. And second, no one has ever, in the history of the world, spoken like this:

“Jane, heart of me, I feel as if all the problems in the world were settled for us!”

She looked up at him, and shook her head, smiling.

“Dear big, little boy-husband, our problems are just beginning. We’re looking at them squarely for the first time!”

“But we’re looking at them together, Jane.”

“Yes, thanks be to love! Jerry, my husband, what a world! I want to cry out, with a loud voice, I want to praise the Lord, with trumpets and with shawms!”

I tried to write a real review of this book, I promise. But honestly, do you need to know anything else? If the lines I quote above make you wince/cringe/cry, you will probably not enjoy this book. If they don’t, you’ll probably enjoy it a lot, because pretty much everything else in Cinderella Jane is really, really fun.



  1. It sounds good and I think I can overlook that kind of talk, which seems to have been common in books of that time period. I see that Marjorie Benton Cooke also wrote Bambi. My 4th grade teacher read that to us and I had to struggle not to cry when Bambi’s mom died. So as long as no deer are harmed in this book, I think I’ll like it.

    • That is, weirdly enough, an entirely different Bambi. The one with the deer is by Felix Salten, an Austrian author who wrote several animal stories. Cooke’s Bambi appears to be about a professor’s daughter who marries a playwright, and it looks like it might be worth checking out.

      • I had no idea there was more than one Bambi! Thanks for the info and I hope you read and review this Bambi.

        • Yeah, it definitely looks like a fun book — and the illustrations are great.

  2. Your quoted lines are moderately silly, I’ll admit, but then that kind of thing seems to have been “done” in novels of the period. I skim them pretty much automatically. And I do love the rest of it.

    I’m afraid the preceding commenter will be disappointed, though – it’s a totally different “Bambi”.

    • I realize it’s not like Bambi (I don’t like animal stories anyway, because something bad always happens to someone). I just don’t want any sad tear-jerking scenes!

    • I can usually deal with a lot more silly language than this — I don’t know what made me get so frustrated with Cooke. It’s a shame, because there are so many good things in this book.

  3. I really liked this book, but when it comes to novels like these, I always seem to be too fond of that “other girl” that loves the hero, and tend to want her to get the guy. And I don’t mean Isabelle. :)

    • Bobs is the best! She might be too good for Jerry, though.

  4. Hark! Forsooth, you had me at “The quiet girl who cleans all the artists’ studios.”

    • Jerry sang gaily as he dumped his belongings on the divan. He lit a cigarette, and laughed aloud involuntarily.

      “Have you ever had delirium tremens, Miss Judd?” he demanded. She looked up without reply. “I’ve got a case right now.”

  5. […] (with a caution to forgive the flowery nonsensical speech patterns) by the ever reliable Melody at Redeeming Qualities. A girl after my own heart […]

  6. I’ve read so many early 20th century books lately that the language didn’t even seem strange! I loved Jane, Jerry, Bobs, Martin, and Cricket. And if you want more of this authors fun dialog get ‘The Cricket’. It’s the girl on the cruise that sneaks on to the train with Jerry. The book starts when Isabelle (Cricket) is four and goes til she finds someone who is going to love her like she deserves. I liked this one as much or maybe more than Jane. And don’t you want to read Martin Christensen’s story? I’ve searched but alas I can’t find that his book even exists.

    A few books I’ve read with my Kindle and loved Mrs. Carey’s Chickens by K.D.Wiggin Smith (this book inspired the Hailey Mills movie Summer Magic) and The Rosary, The Mistress of Shenstone & The Shuttle by Florence L Barclay.

    I’m enjoying all your great reviews of free books that I can read with the Kindle I didn’t want that I got for my birthday. Thanks, Melody and Thanks to my DIL Starr, cuz the Kindle was her idea!

    • I found that the language stood out, even among silly early 20th century novels, but I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I definitely loved Bobs! The Cricket sounds really interesting, and I’ll try to read it. Thanks for the recommendation, and for reading the blog.

      • You’re welcome. I love your blog and I think the title of it is inspired!
        Most the silly talk occurs at the very end, which, I think is the quote above. And by that time I was caught up in the story and glossed over all the awkward speak.
        A small edit my post above, it’s Mother Carey’s Chickens. ;-)

        • You’re right — the silliness only really gets out of hand towards the end. The earlier parts of the book were a lot of fun, which was probably a bit part of my disappointment.

          Mother Carey’s Chickens is a book I keep picking up at the wrong time, I think — I’ve started it a couple of times, but never finished it.

  7. I liked the feminist dimension of this novel, how Jane develops an interest in women’s rights and tries to apply them to her marriage. I find it quite amusing that some things have changed so little since this book was published in 1917:

    “… Woman is trying to fight her way against the two strongest forces in the world, first, Nature—her own damnable, emotional impotence—second, Man, the cave-dweller.”

    “You think men don’t want her to advance?”

    “Man wants things to go on as they did a hundred years ago; woman, the dependant, the begetter, the chattel.”

    It’s still true today for many men, alas! But I’m not oblivious to the irony that these lines are spoken in bitterness by a character who would like nothing more than to be a chattel to the hero.

    • Yeah, Cooke has a lot of contradictory opinions that she doesn’t know are contradictory. There’s a lot of uncomfortable gender essentialism that, for me, outweighed the bits of professed feminism.

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