Archive for the ‘Vintage Books’ Category

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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.

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The Proper Place

March 15, 2017

Monday I started Anna Buchan’s The Proper Place. By the end of the day, I was like, “this is my favorite thing; I only care about Anna Buchan now.” Yesterday I didn’t read any of it at all. Today I returned to it, and it turns out I still care about things other than Buchan, and this isn’t my favorite book. But it’s pretty great. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Green Goddess

March 8, 2017

Okay, so, look. This review at Google Books says all that’s really necessary about Louise Jordan Miln’s The Green Goddess. The book is pretty disastrous. The review makes me feel like I don’t need to write one. But sometimes when I really hate a book, I write a lot about it while I’m still in the middle of it. And I’m still angry enough at this one to want to be kind of mean about it. So, you don’t need a review, but you’re getting one.

Lucilla Crespin is the daughter of an English vicar. He seems cool, and we spend two chapters with him before Lucilla marries Captain Antony Crespin and leaves for India. Lucilla and her father never see each other again, and I’d say those first chapters were wasted except that they’re substantially less miserable than the rest of the book. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Ruth Erskine’s Crosses

March 5, 2017

Ruth Erskine’s Crosses is in some ways my favorite and in some ways my least favorite of the Chautauqua Girls books. Ruth struggles with religion, and her struggle is meaty and complicated and relatable. But it’s also kind of a struggle to read—because of her slow progress and numerous setbacks, and because most of the time you can see exactly what she’s doing wrong and how she could fix it. That’s a big thing for Pansy/Isabella Alden—the idea that it’s a lot easier to see other people’s mistakes than your own. And on one hand, that’s exactly the kind of complexity I enjoy reading about, and on the other it’s very frustrating. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Chautauqua Girls at Home

February 27, 2017

The Chautauqua Girls at Home follows Flossy, Ruth, Marion and Eurie as they return home and attempt to live up to their new religious convictions. It’s full of the same kind of detailed soul-searching as Four Girls at Chautauqua, but it doesn’t have the first book’s neat arcs. Four Girls at Chautaqua was a very single-minded book. It had one task: to turn these four girls into Christians. This sequel has, probably, too much going on. Not that there’s anything I wanted left out—this is one of those books that’s packed with interesting things, but doesn’t give many of them enough space. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Catching Up 2/1/2017

February 1, 2017

For a while there in early to mid-January, I didn’t want to do anything but read. Then I got a little bogged down. Reading often distracts me and cheers me up, but sometimes the world is too scary to be distracted from. Bad things are happening out there. If you’re in the US, I encourage you to call your elected representatives often.*

Anyway, things I’ve read, so that I can hopefully move forward:

Six Girls Growing Older, by Marion Ames Taggart

I don’t know what it says that this is the second time I’ve gotten this far in the series and stopped reading. Possibly that it ought to have ended here? Margery and Laura return home, the two romantic storylines are resolved, and there’s a description of waiting for election results that I found much more interesting and much less depressing last time I read it.

Red Pepper Burns, by Grace S. Richmond

I really, really like Grace S. Richmond, guys. This is a very episodic book about a doctor who lives in the suburbs, and how hot and honorable and good at surgery he is. He also adopts a small child and drives his car very well and falls in love with a widow instead of the flashy young woman who’s falling all over herself to attract him. If you are a person who should read this book, every one of those items will have piqued your interest.

I also listened to audiobooks of Aunt Crete’s Emancipation, Stalky & Co., and Grace Harlowe’s Golden Summer.

Aunt Crete’s Emancipation, read by Cori Samuel, is my favorite thing I’ve listened to from LibriVox. At first I was a little thrown off by hearing an American book in an English accent, but Samuel is a really good reader, and somehow this was just a really fun story to listen to.

Stalky & Co., read by Tim Bulkeley, didn’t really work for me. This is one of my favorite books, and Bulkeley is a perfectly competent reader, but…I don’t know. I think the biggest problem was that I found the character voices silly and distracting.

Grace Harlowe’s Golden Summer was read by ashleighjane, who’s done a bunch of other books in the series. I listened to it to reorient myself in the series, thinking I’d move on to later books I haven’t read before, but it was…uninspiring. Like, I don’t have specific complaints. It was fine. But it did not make me want to read the next book.

*Calling your reps is a good thing to do no matter what your political affiliation is, but if you’re pleased with our new authoritarian government, why are you here reading a blog about books that emphasize things like honor and truth and charity?

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The Brown Study

January 12, 2017

I have this embarrassing secret, only it’s not particularly secret and I don’t know if I’m embarrassed: sometimes I really like religious fiction. Yes, sometimes it’s cloying, and I’m not into that. But sometimes it’s Amy Le Feuvre being weirdly mystical, or G.K. Chesterton doing whatever the hell he ever thinks he’s doing. And sometimes it’s the kind of thing Grace S. Richmond writes, where religion is about firm ideals and practical good deeds and it’s almost not condescending. I’ve never had a particle of religious belief, but those ideals are compelling, and I don’t need religion to (to a certain extent) share them. Also, you know what else is compelling? Passionate, tortured, hidden self-denial. And The Brown Study is, like, 70% that.

I’ve read so few of Richmond’s books, but they’ve all featured attractive young clergymen, so I’m forced to assume that’s a thing for her. The Brown Study’s variation goes like this: Donald Brown was the minister at a fashionable city church, but he had to take some time off for his health. He moved to a poor area and offers unofficial spiritual support to his neighbors. He realizes that he can do more good there than at his fancy church, and also that his new work makes him a better person, but his old friends all want him to come home, including the girl he loves.

It’s all spiritual pining and being nice to the neighbors, and I enjoyed it thoroughly–although I might regret the nice plates and carpets and things Brown has to leave behind almost as much as he does.

There’s a second, unrelated story to fill out the book. In it, young Julius Broughton schemes to get his sister Dorothy and his engineer friend Kirke Waldron to meet. Once they’ve done that, though, they don’t need his help–they’re perfectly capable of carrying their romance through as straightforwardly as possible.