Archive for the ‘books’ Category

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The Career of Claudia

April 19, 2017

I raced through Frances Mary Peard’s The Career of Claudia, but not because I liked it. Actually, I can only think of one scene I’m fairly sure I enjoyed.

Claudia is a wealthy young woman who’s just graduated from college. She’s emerged a Socialist and a landscape gardener, and those are the only things she wants to talk about. When she moves in with some spinster cousins, she expects to use their house mostly as a home base between landscaping jobs. She meets a nice young man named Harry Hilton at her cousins’ house, and he invites her to come do some landscaping at his estate, mostly because he’s falling in love with her. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Young Stowaways in Space

April 17, 2017

Young Stowaways in Space, by Richard M. Elam, is bad, and also very boring. It was published in 1960, but it’s set in a future where space travel is common and a robot maid is possible but you have to program it by hand. Read the rest of this entry ?

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A Professional Rider

April 12, 2017

So, A Professional Rider is…a book. It’s by Mrs. Edward Kennard, who wrote Pretty Kitty Herrick, and it’s sort of like that, but weirder and more upsetting. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Slipper Point Mystery

April 11, 2017

The Slipper Point Mystery is typical Augusta Huiell Seaman: two girls, Doris and Sally, make friends one summer on a town on the New Jersey coast. They find a mysterious room built into a hillside, and set out in search of buried treasure. What they find instead is some local history–but from a recent enough past that someone is around to remember it.

It’s fun, and mostly satisfying, in the way that all of Seaman’s books are fun, and mostly satisfying. It’s a little better than The Vanderlyn Silhouette, maybe, and a little worse than The Boarded-Up House. But it also has what may be my favorite part of any book of hers I’ve read. In one of the final chapters, Seaman switches to a close third person narration from the point of view of Sally’s sister Genevieve, who is about three. Sally and Doris have been carting Genevieve around with them all summer, leaving her with picture books and candy while they hang out in holes in the ground. It’s been clear that Genevieve isn’t too happy about that, but the attitude Seaman gives Genevieve in this chapter is unexpected and amazing. She changes her language a little, and the added formality makes Genevieve seem sort of superior and unimpressed with her elders. Check it out:

True, they had left her eatables in generous quantities, but she had already disposed of these, and as for the picture-books of many attractive descriptions, given her to while away the weary hours, they were an old story now, and the afternoon was growing late. She longed to go down to the shore and play in the rowboat, and dabble her bare toes in the water, and indulge in the eternally fascinating experiment of catching crabs with a piece of meat tied to a string and her father’s old crab-net. What was the use of living when one was doomed to drag out a wonderful afternoon on a tiny, hopelessly uninteresting porch out in the backwoods? Existence was nothing but a burden.

I’m pretty sure Genevieve’s internal rebellion is worth reading the entire 177 humdrum preceding pages.

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Jane Journeys On

April 7, 2017

I bookmarked Ruth Comfort Mitchell’s Jane Journeys On after reading Play the Game!, but the further away I got from reading Play the Game!, the worse I remembered it being, so my bookmark probably would have remained unread forever if Franziska hadn’t left me a comment telling me it’s full of things I like. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Setons

March 28, 2017

I’ve made myself start reading things that aren’t by Anna Buchan again, but here’s one more from her: her second novel, The Setons. I’m getting to the point where I’ll read something and think, “oh, that’s very Anna Buchan.” The Setons is very Anna Buchan. It also seems to be very autobographical, which is almost, but not quite, the same thing. Anyway, Anna Buchan was a minister’s daughter with brothers who spent at least part of her youth in Glasgow, and so is Elizabeth Seton.

I really enjoyed The Setons, but I haven’t got much to say about it. It’s without much of a plot, in a very natural-feeling way. Elizabeth’s father is sweet and not terribly practical, and Elizabeth has a full time job helping with parish duties and managing her father and the household and her youngest brother, Buff. The mother and eldest brother are dead, and two additional brothers are in India. There’s a visit from a very nice young man, and Mr. Seton has health issues, but these are normal kinds of interruptions.

Then World War I starts, and is a much more significant interruption. One feature of a book that’s very Anna Buchan is that lots of people are going to die in WWI, whether the action of the book takes place during or after it. I don’t know if anything’s ever really made me feel the impact of WWI on the UK the way Anna Buchan’s grieving families have. She makes it feel like sending your sons off to the army and never getting them back is the default, and anything else is a gift. I know that sounds miserable, and it is, a bit. But Buchan has a belief that everything is good and worthwhile in the end, and she makes you feel it too.

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Penny Plain

March 21, 2017

More Anna Buchan: Penny Plain, which is pretty great, although it gave me fewer “I only care about Anna Buchan now” feelings than The Proper Place. Jean Jardine, a 23-year-old Scottish girl, is the main character, but not by a lot. She lives in the town of Priorsford with her three brothers–technically two, but Jean doesn’t like it when people imply that the Mhor isn’t really part of the family–a dog, and a middle-aged maid. The Jardines are poor and literary and happy, and Jean’s chief worry is that their landlord will someday come from London and evict them from their cottage.

Their landlord does come, incognito, but he’s so impressed by Jean’s selfless kindness and the Jardines’ attachment to the cottage that he goes away again. Anyway, his arrival in town is overshadowed by that of Pamela Reston, a 40-year-old society beauty looking for some peace and quiet. She and Jean become good friends, and her newness is a good excuse for Buchan to introduce us to all of the local characters.

I’m not sure Penny Plain knows what it wants to be. Pamela and Jean each get a romance, and there’s some moderately dramatic business about an inheritance, but those feel like afterthoughts, things that Buchan put in because a book is supposed to have them, or something like them. The heart of the book is the small domestic incidents, and the casual conversations with neighbors, and the little bits of family histories, and people being nice to each other. Not that any of the plottier bits are bad–I was definitely invested while they were happening–but in retrospect I would rather have had more of the Macdonalds and Mrs. Hope and the Mhor. And I think this is going to be a great one to reread, because it will be better with no element of suspense.