Archive for the ‘Vintage Fiction’ Category

h1

The Bronze Hand

May 22, 2020

Look, I’d love to be reading more. I feel like I should be reading more. But my brain mostly wants to a) cudgel itself into doing some work, and b) play increasingly arcane games of solitaire. Sometimes, though, what it wants to do most is: not sleep. One night last week I gave up on sleep around 3 a.m. and looked around for a book. What I found was a very battered copy of The Bronze Hand, by Carolyn Wells. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Our Miss York

April 9, 2020

611Id3BMbwL._SY679_I think what we all need during this frankly awful time is, yes, another book from the teens about a young woman earning a living. Happy ending a must.

I can’t find out much about Edwin Bateman Morris, but he has an intriguing list of titles, and he was apparently considered worthy of Coles Phillips cover art. And while Our Miss York didn’t wow me, it has a lot of great elements.

Margaret York is an orphan, reluctantly adopted by an uncle who has no patience for children, and less money than he once did. She grows up industrious and efficient, in contrast to her friend David Bruce, who has a moderate income and drifts from hobby to hobby without ever settling down to work at anything. When Margaret’s uncle dies, she takes a stenography course and goes to work at the Waring Company. She learns the business as thoroughly as she can, and draws the attention of Willis Potter, the director, who gives her advice and steers her towards new opportunities–though whether for her benefit or his own, it’s not always clear.

Margaret does well–has some adventures, reconnects with her childhood friend David, makes friends with an older businesswoman–but, as books like this too often do, Our Miss York narrows down to the old business or family question, and the answer is a little too much of a foregone conclusion. Also, I would have liked to see Morris tie together and follow through on threads that he only casts in the same direction, like how Margaret’s upbringing–or lack of it–influences her. But it’s hard to complain about a book full of people being good at things, where the heroine gets to have both personal and professional success, and also pilot a motorboat. I don’t love Our Miss York, but I do recommend it.

h1

Dora’s Housekeeping

March 30, 2020

What we all need in the middle of a pandemic–if we have the time/energy/attention span–is some light reading. I’ll try to find some for you soon, but for now: Dora’s Housekeeping, by Elizabeth Stansbury Kirkland, is very dull.

You know how Ten Dollars Enough can drag a little when there are too many recipes in a row? Dora’s Housekeeping never stops dragging. I recommending getting your cookbook-in-novel’s-clothing fix elsewhere.

Oh, you want to know what it’s about? Well, Dora Greenwood is a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl with four younger siblings. Her mother is sent abroad to recover from an illness, and Dora takes over as housekeeper. She’s got a helpful aunt and cousin next door, but she has trouble finding and keeping a good cook, and she still has to go to school.

I liked that Dora has the capacity to be a bit of a brat–sure, you’re definitely the person most affected by your servant’s mother’s illness–and that her father is a little finicky and not always as nice as one would wish. But Kirkland really looks down on the servants, and there’s too many recipes to too little story.

This is a sort of a sequel to Six Little Cooks; or, Aunt Jane’s Cooking Class, in which Dora’s helpful aunt teaches Dora’s cousins to cook. I think I won’t read it.

h1

The Blue Envelope

March 13, 2020

Is a book ever as good all the way through, especially when there’s a romantic climax to get through and authors can’t be depended on not to forget what their characters are actually like, or pretend that actually it was love at first sight? Sophie Kerr, author of The Blue Envelope (not to be confused with The Blue Envelope by Roy Snell), isn’t much more dependable in that way than the average author, but she built up so much good will in the first half of the book that I wasn’t really disappointed. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Gladiola Murphy

February 28, 2020

Gladiola Murphy is an interesting book. The things it does, it does well, but some of them would be better not done at all. The author is Ruth Sawyer, who also wrote the Newbery Medal-winning Roller Skates. This is about a child too, in the early parts, but it’s not for children.

Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Support

February 24, 2020

Well, I continue to be extremely me: I really wish Margaret Ashmun had spent more of Support on the business venture Constance Moffat embarks on at least two thirds of the way into the book. Other than that, it’s a good divorce novel, it kept me guessing, and the ending is satisfying. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

The Snowshoe Trail

February 14, 2020

I do love a good survival book, but The Snowshoe Trail, by Edison Marshall, isn’t one. It is, however, a) racist as fuck, b) action-packed, and c) substantially too long.

Bill Bronson is a fur trapper in, I think, present-day British Columbia. He’s hoping to someday find his father’s gold mine, and also take revenge on the man who killed his father and made off with the loose gold.

Virginia Tremont is a young woman from an unspecified US city. She and her guardian, Kenly Lounsbury, hire Bill to help them look for Harold Lounsbury, Kenly’s nephew and Virginia’s fiance. He disappeared after coming to this part of the world six years ago, so there’s not much hope, but Virginia hasn’t given up. Kenly Lounsbury’s motives are less clear. He’s financing the expedition, but it’s hard to imagine him caring about anything but his own consequence and comfort.

Bill falls in love with Virginia at first sight, but keeps it to himself. It’s pretty obvious that he approves of her sense and spirit, though, especially when the only others with them are the whiny Lounsbury, and the shifty cook, Vosper. Virginia appreciates Bill, too, and her steadfastness and appreciation of nature create a friendly bond between them.

Winter seems to be arriving in the mountains a little bit early, but they’re doing okay. And then disaster strikes–well, the first disaster, anyway. Bill and Virginia (brave, trying to do things) get swept into a river, while Lounsbury and Vosper (cowardly, lazy) hang back and watch. Bill (superhumanly, and not for the last time) manages to get himself and Virginia to the opposite shore, somewhere downstream. The other two pack up as soon as is seemly, leaving behind everything they don’t feel like carrying, and head back to civilization.

Bill and Virginia have ended up near one of the cabins that Bill maintains, and it’s well-stocked with supplies. The two of them have similar tastes, and with food, shelter, a stove and a phonograph, they get along pretty well. Bill teaches Virginia to shoot and snowshoe, she spontaneously learns to cook, and they wait for the river to freeze over.

And then–yes. Bill finds Harold Lounsbury. He’s fine. He didn’t go home because he didn’t care to. He’s an alcoholic, and he’s living with a native woman who seems to be largely without agency. The depiction of the First Nations people in this book is really, really bad, folks. Worth steering clear of the book for. The only part of Harold’s living arrangements that Edison Marshall doesn’t seem to disapprove of is the power imbalance.

Bill promised to bring Harold to Virginia, so he does, but none of the three are all that happy with the arrangement. Then: a food shortage. A bear attack. Bill goes blind. Harold hatches a plot with his native pals. Virginia gets shot. It’s exhausting. I kept thinking the book was over, and it wasn’t.

We do finally get an ending, and it’s fine, but by that time I didn’t care anymore. I think there are reasons you might want to read this book, but I can no longer remember them.