At this point 75% of the books I’ve read by Tompkins have as a thesis the idea that no one can be happy without some kind of work. That’s a thing I also believe — probably for slightly different reasons — and it tends to produce exactly the kind of book I want to read. Read the rest of this entry »
Do you ever feel like a book knows you too well? I got about 75% of the way through Joanna Builds a Nest being totally delighted by it, and then I got to a point where I felt like my id was looking me straight in the eyes and I really, really wanted to look away. So, um, I’m going to try to write about the book as if that didn’t happen.
Juliet Wilbor Tompkins is pretty good with competent female characters, although in the other books of hers I’ve read — which were earlier — I felt at times like she was apologizing for them. I didn’t feel that way here. Joanna Maynard is about thirty, and works in publishing. She’s good at her job, and her firm couldn’t get along without her. Her real genius, though, is for design, and she reflexively turns unappealing spaces into comfortable, welcoming ones. She’s moved from apartment to apartment, making each one over until her landlord can charge more than she can afford to pay, but now she’s bought a house, and is free to do her worst. Her worst, I imagine, is pretty fantastic. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m so resentful of Bettina von Hutten right now, and it’s ridiculous, because I knew what I was letting myself in for.
Tommy Kingsmead, though. All I wanted was for nice things to happen to him. But at this point, I’m surprised von Hutten even let Pam be happy.
Tommy, the Earl of Kingsmead, first appeared in The Halo as a precocious nine year old who is interested in everyone and everything. He’s absolutely recognizable as the same person when he reappears in Kingsmead as a young man of 23, benevolent, romantic, and honest. In the intervening years, Tommy’s mother has died, his sister Brigit has married, and Tommy has been forced to sell his ancestral home. He’s living fairly happily in a ruined castle in Italy, but he’s suddenly seized with a desire to see Kingsmead again, so he writes to the purchasers–his college friend Teddy Lansing’s family–and invites himself to stay. Read the rest of this entry »
Bettina von Hutten fucks me up. I’m not sure if I really like her at all. She’s an author who’s not afraid to let things end badly, and usually I avoid authors like that. I mean, I can very easily be unhappy by myself. I don’t need anyone’s help. But I bought Pam Decides at a library book sale because it was cheap and I liked the cover. And then I read Pam, because I don’t like reading sequels first, and mostly I liked it. And then I read Pam Decides and felt pretty good about the world in general, because when von Hutten does decide on a happy ending, she makes it count.
I’ve just finished reading The Halo, and I think I understand now. Von Hutten delights in situations where there’s no right answer, and she’s good at them. If you want to wallow in painful emotional situations, go no further. Or, alternatively, stop getting emotionally involved in books; it’s a mistake. Read the rest of this entry »
Sometimes looking through Project Gutenberg for good titles works out pretty well. The Professional Aunt is definitely a fun title, and the book comes close enough to living up to it that I can’t say for sure whether or not it does. The title character is Betty Lisle, who has:
- 1 Unmarried brother,
- 2 Married brothers,
- 2 Sisters-in-law,
- 7 Nieces and nephews, and
- A whole host of aunts and uncles and cousins.
I’m not altogether sure what to say about Mollie’s Substitute Husband, by Max McConn. I mean, aside from the obvious, which is that it’s The Prisoner of Zenda if it were set in Chicago circa 1920 and almost every possible thing went wrong and then at the end everyone was like, “oh well, no harm done.” Read the rest of this entry »
Six Girls Growing Older is a funny one. I’m not entirely sure how a feel about it, especially in relation to Six Girls and the Tea Room. But having had a few days to let it process, I think it’s largely an issue of structure. The last book used the tea room as a framework to hang the story on, but also the Scollards knew when they opened it that it was only going to last until the Spring, when it was time to go back to Pennsylvania, giving the book a clear time-frame, too. Six Girls Growing Older, on the other hand, is as transitional as the name implies. Laura’s on her way to Germany. Margery is getting married. Bob is really too old to get a proper summer vacation. The Scollard fortunes change, too and Aunt Keren adopts Happie legally and the rest of the family practically. Read the rest of this entry »