Posts Tagged ‘1850s’


The Semi-Detached House

August 29, 2010

I almost wasn’t going to post about The Semi-Detached House, because I like it too much and have little else to say about it. It’s just a book about (mostly) nice people who meet and (mostly) really like each other. Also it’s very funny. I wholeheartedly recommend it.


ETA: The link above goes to the UPenn Celebration of Women Writers page, which is awesome, and worth browsing, but the book is also available at Google Books.


Dora Deane

March 29, 2009

Although I’ve read Tracy Park about four times and love it to a degree that is truly silly, I never read anything else by Mary Jane Holmes. Part of it was just laziness, but I think it was also because I was worried that her other books wouldn’t be as enjoyable, and that I’d be disappointed. Now that I’ve read Dora Deane, however, I no longer have to worry. That’s not to say that Dora Deane is anywhere near as awesome as Tracy Park. It’s not. And it’s different in a lot of ways, many of which I think are due to its having been written thirty years earlier. But Mrs. Holmes still pushes all the right buttons. I think she appeals to my worst instincts as a reader, and I kind of love it. Dora Deane owes a lot to The Wide, Wide World, what with its pretty orphan who is sent to live with her aunt after her apparently perfect mother dies, but where Ellen Montgomery’s story was all about cultivating a certain kind of moral and religious strength, Dora Deane is pure melodrama. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Wide, Wide World

February 14, 2008

The Wide, Wide World was written by Susan Warner and published in 1850 under the name Elizabeth Wetherell. It was an enormous success, and probably America’s first bestseller — it was as popular in the second half of the 19th century as Uncle Tom’s Cabin was, and was published two years before it. It was also one of the first books intended for girls rather than children. I guess it’s sort of similar to the works of Charlotte Yonge, who was writing around the same time.

For all these reasons I’ve been intending to read it for a long time, but there are so many things I want to read, and so I didn’t get around the The Wide, Wide World until the fact that Elsie Dinsmore reads it in Elsie’s Girlhood made me feel like I had to.

Well, it took me a while, but it was no hardship. It’s actually a pretty good book, and I’ surprised it isn’t still considered a classic. It’s overtly religious nearly to the extent that the Elsie books are, but I think religion is dealt with much more sensitively in The Wide, Wide World. Possibly this is because Warner was a much better writer than Martha Finley. Everything is dealt with more sensitively. Characters stay in character. There is interest outside of religion in The Wide, Wide World, and sometimes, when children are playing games, you actually get the sense that they’re having fun, as opposed to just being told that they are. And I kept having moments where I’d look up from the page and think to myself, “Yeah. That seems like something a person would do.” Much as I love old girls’ books, I don’t have many moments like that while reading them. Read the rest of this entry ?