Posts Tagged ‘1870s’

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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.

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The Cuckoo Clock

October 16, 2017

The Cuckoo Clock is another Mrs. Molesworth, and my first experience with her more fanciful stories. I gather that this is one of her most famous books, but I’m not that into it.

The protagonist is Griselda, a young girl who has been sent by her family in India to live with two elderly aunts. The house is cool, and her aunts are kind, but it’s a cold and dreary winter and she has no one to play with. Then she starts talking to a cuckoo that lives in a cuckoo clock that belonged to her grandmother. The cuckoo is probably really alive — not just in a dream, or her imagination — and he takes her on a series of adventures to places that don’t exist, like a version of China populated by dolls. Griselda is a little inclined to grumble, and the cuckoo is condescending, but they do seem sort of fond of each other.

Honestly, in spite of all the things that happen to Griselda, it feels kind of mundane. She goes places and looks at stuff, but nothing really happens, and she doesn’t talk to anyone. Interaction may be why the real world bits are more fun than the imaginary stuff, even though not much happens in the real world, either.

It’s kind of weird, how I’ve immediately gone from avoiding Mrs. Molesworth to cutting her a lot of slack, but that seems to be what’s happening. I don’t really care about this book, but I didn’t not like it, and even when I don’t like her, I think she’s really good.

 

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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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Four Girls at Chautauqua

February 23, 2017

I love a good conversion narrative. I think it’s because there’s no other context in which authors go so deep into their characters’ thought processes. Four Girls at Chautauqua is, like, 70% thought processes, and I really, really enjoyed it.

Yes, I have finally read a book by Pansy. I picked one of her books at random last week, and realized a chapter or two in that it was definitely the sequel to something. But I was already intrigued enough to want to start the series from the beginning rather than looking for something standalone to read instead. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The First Violin

December 6, 2016

When Alisha recommended Jessie Fothergill’s The First Violin, she mentioned Patricia Brent, Spinster and the Williamsons. Based on that, I guess I was expecting something romcom-like. That is not what I got, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The First Violin is the story of May Wedderburn, the middle daughter of an English vicar. Adelaide, the oldest, is the strong-willed ambitious one, and Stella, the youngest, is smart and practical. May herself is dreamy, idealistic, and musical.

Her uneventful life is interrupted by the arrival of Sir Peter Le Marchant (wealthy, older, creepy as fuck). He wants to marry May, presumably so he can make her life miserable, but she wants nothing to do with him. She’s rescued by a neighbor, Miss Hallam, who is going to Germany to consult an eye doctor. She offers to bring May along as her companion and promises to arrange for singing lessons. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Edwardian/WWI-era fiction at Edwardian Promenade

February 1, 2012

There have been a lot of articles and blog posts floating around lately about what to read if you’re into Downton Abbey. One in particular, which talked about Elizabeth von Arnim apropos of one character giving a copy of Elizabeth and Her German Garden to another, made Evangeline at Edwardian Promenade say, “hey, what about Elinor Glyn?” Which, obviously, is the correct response to everything. And then I read it, and thought, “yeah, Elizabeth and her German Garden was popular when it came out in 1898, but would people really be trying to get each other to read a fifteen year-old(ish) novel by a German author during World War I?” And then we decided that we could probably come up with an excellent list of Edwardian and World War I-era fiction that tied in the Downton Abbey. And so we did.

It’s a pretty casual list, mostly composed of things we came up with off the tops of out heads, a bit of research on Evangeline’s part and a bit of flipping through advertisements on mine, so we’re making no claims to be exhaustive. If you have suggestions for additions to the list, leave a comment.