Archive for the ‘Vintage Fiction’ Category

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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.

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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?