Posts Tagged ‘1880s’

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9th Blogiversary catch-up

March 4, 2016

Oh hey. It’s been another year.  Thanks for sticking around for nine years (!!!) even when I continue to do things like post half a dozen times in two weeks and then go the next two weeks without posting anything at all.

Anyway, it seems like a good day for a catch-up. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Catch-up, 2/15/2016

February 15, 2016

The Seven Darlings, by Gouverneur Morris

Mel was reading this, and it sounded fun, and it is. Six sisters and a brother turn their summer home into a fancy resort to earn a living after their father dies. It starts really, really well, but there’s too much going on. Every sibling has a romance, and in the end, none of them get enough page-time.

Firm of Nan & Sue, Stenographers, by Harriet Carpenter Cullaton

Mostly a series of anecdotes about running a typewriting business, told by Nan. She recruits her widowed friend Sue when she finds she has too much work to do on her own. The two women deal with a variety of customers, are taken in by a con artist, and, perhaps most intriguingly, operate a payphone.

Gentle Breadwinners, by Catherine Owen

Another story/cookbook from Catherine Owen. Two young women, left penniless after the death of their father, move in with their aunt and uncle, poor farmers. After a few false starts, Dorothy, the older sister, figures out how to earn a living, with not as much help as she’d like from her sister May. Don’t let the abbreviated review fool you–I loved this.

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Molly Bishop’s Family

February 11, 2016

I enjoyed Ten Dollars Enough so much that I immediately went looking for other story/cookbooks. And I found some stuff, but nothing was as enjoyable.

There’s A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, which is beautifully illustrated, but doesn’t have enough story. The Mary Frances Cook Book is perhaps even more beautifully illustrated–by Margaret G. Hays–but, as I’ve said before, I have limited patience for inanimate objects that talk. Mary at The Farm was actually too didactic to read, and The Fun of Cooking just…wasn’t fun.

It got me thinking about what makes a book good, especially after I read Catherine Owen’s sequel to Ten Dollars Enough, Molly Bishop’s Family, and found it just as engaging. I use the word “engaging” a lot, I know. It’s because I rarely feel confident about saying that a book is objectively bad, but I generally feel pretty okay about knowing whether or not a book captured my attention. Write what you know, right? I don’t know why Catherine Owen is so enjoyable–a light touch with what ought to be dull material–but I know that I enjoy her. I know that I couldn’t put this book down for other things I also thought I was absorbed in. I know that when a sad thing happens to Molly, I get a little teary.

Molly Bishop’s Family follows Molly through several reversals of fortune and the birth of three children. It’s short on recipes compared to Ten Dollars Enough, but it makes up for it with household management, business advice, furniture purchases, and more child-rearing advice than I ever thought I’d have the patience for. It’s more of a story than the first book, but that makes sense. Ten Dollars Enough takes place over the space of three months, and Molly’s situation is fairly static. Molly Bishop’s Family takes place over the course of about 18 years and it is, more or less, about change. Sometimes it made me nostalgic for its own early chapters.

Also it made me want to eat pigeon pie.

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Ten Dollars Enough

February 8, 2016
RQ reader Bridget emailed me last week to tell me about Ten Dollars Enough, by Catherine Owen, and. Guys. If any of the rest of you know about novel/cookbooks that include the prices of everything and also potentially people pulling brains out of calves’ heads, my inbox is open. Yeah, I forgot to check my blog email for, like, a year, but I’m checking it now.
The book was originally serialized in Good Housekeeping–basically it was a glorified cooking column, but there is a story, and the story does its job well. Harry and Molly Bishop have spent their first year of marriage living in a boarding house, and they’re sick of it. They’re not sure they can afford to live as well as they’d like on their small income, but when friends who are going abroad offer to rent them a small house for three months, they decide to make the experiment. They can afford to spend ten dollars a week on food, and Molly, who has been to a series of cooking schools and used to keep house for her mother, is convinced that she can make it work.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tracy Park, again

January 8, 2015

Several things explain why I haven’t posted much lately — some extended Netflixing, rereading things that don’t fit here, like Mary Stewart and some early John Le Carre, and also rereading, yet again and very slowly, Mary Jane Holmes’ Tracy Park. This isn’t a review. I couldn’t write a review. I wrote a really long synopsis once, and that’s here. This is, I guess, an appreciation.

It’s ridiculous how much I love this book. Objectively it’s not very good, probably, but I’m not objective about it. And anyway, I think it’s Holmes’ best work, and that counts for something. It’s got things that others of her books have — insane people, and the name ‘Hastings,’ and a lot of low-key cruelty — but it’s also a lot kinder than her other books. No one is stripped entirely of their wealth, or left to die alone. No one goes  crazy to the point of raving and tearing their hair out. Frank never has to make a full confession to his brother. Everyone’s okay with each other in the end. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Miz Maze : or, the Winkworth puzzle ; a story in letters

November 24, 2013

So, I think The Miz Maze might be the best collaborative novel I’ve read. It was published in 1883, but seems to take place circa 1859, and the authors are as follows:

Frances Awdry
Mary Bramston
Christabel Rose Coleridge
Mary Susanna Lee
A.E. Mary Anderson Morshead
Frances Mary Peard
Eleanor C. Price
Florence Wilford
Charlotte Mary Yonge

Nine authors is a lot, and I want to know more about them and about the dynamic between them. But all I’ve got is the obvious textual evidence that they weren’t as acrimonious as The Whole Family‘s lot. Beyond that, I’ve got nothing but a page of signatures, a few Wikipedia pages, and a random selection of facts about Charlotte Yonge. And that’s okay. It’s a pretty self-sufficient book, I think, and the authors seem to agree.

The information they do and don’t choose to give is so interesting. First, the authors’ names appear only as facsimile signatures, and they don’t specify who wrote what. Second, they provide a list of characters, and it’s crazy. See, for example, “Sir Walter Winkworth, Baronet of the Miz Maze, Stokeworthy, Wilts, age about 64, residing, when the book opens, at High Scale, a small property in Westmoreland, which was his in right of his second wife, Sophia Ratclyffe, recently deceased.”

I mean, all else aside, that’s a hell of a lot of commas. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Mystery of a Turkish Bath

September 4, 2013

So, has anyone read anything by Rita, AKA E.M. Gollan, AKA Eliza Humphreys, etc.? Because I read The Mystery of a Turkish Bath over the weekend, and it’s super weird. It’s not actually a mystery story, really — the subject of the title is a woman — so much as a tangle of spa society and occultism. Read the rest of this entry ?

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