Posts Tagged ‘1880s’

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Found Yet Lost

October 12, 2017

I went to a very nice book sale last weekend and…accidentally bought a book I already had. This is what comes of buying books and then not reading them.

Anyway, it was Found Yet Lost, by Edward Payson Roe, and this time I read it immediately. It’s a Civil War story. There’s this girl, Helen Kemble, and two men have been in love with her since they were all children. Albert Nichol is a captain in the Union army, and is presumably everything that is fine and upstanding. He and Helen are not quite officially engaged. Hobart Martine is unspecifically disabled, and therefore is not regarded by anyone as a legitimate love interest.

Nichol is struck by a shell and left to rot in a ditch, and Martine, wanting to do Helen a service, goes South to see if he can recover the body. He doesn’t find it, but he does talk to Nichol’s men and to other soldiers from their town, and impresses everyone with his courage. Then he goes home for just long enough to form a deeper friendship with Helen and her parents before returning to the South to work as a nurse.

After the war, he and Helen get closer, and she slowly falls in love with him. Roe seems to feel this requires an excuse, so: apparently Helen feels things very deeply but her feelings don’t necessarily last. Great. Martine is inclined to think she just pities him, but eventually he’s convinced, and they make plans to get married.

Just before the wedding, he’s summoned to Washington, DC to see a sick cousin. In the hospital, he runs into Nichol, who has amnesia and an unpleasantly altered personality. Come on, you knew that was coming, right? Martine has to decide whether to tell everyone, or pretend he never saw Nichol, but Martine has never done an underhanded thing in his life, so he brings Nichol home with him and does his very best to spare unpleasantness to everyone but himself.

There’s also a short story at the end of the volume, about a farmer’s daughter who comes home after spending time in the city. Her father is worried that she won’t be satisfied with their simple life anymore. She wants to know if her fancy city suitor shows up as well in the country as he did in town. It’s cute.

It’s not bad, this book. But it’s not good enough for me to want two copies. Does anyone want one?*

*I’ll mail it anywhere in the US. I don’t want to make a big giveaway thing out of this. I’ll give it to whoever wants it and if more than one person wants it priority goes to frequent commenters.

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The Third Miss St. Quentin

October 5, 2017

I’ve been avoiding Mary Louisa Molesworth’s books for years, for no reason I can explain, but sometimes I go looking for something Cinderella-y and this time her The Third Miss St. Quentin was the thing that I found. And I’m glad of that, because it’s really good.

When I go looking for Cinderella stories, it’s because I don’t have a better way to look for what I really want: stories about people who are treated badly for a while and then get to have lots of nice things. The Third Miss St. Quentin isn’t that at all. Instead, it’s sort of a riff on the plot of Cinderella, but with a completely different emotional arc. The keynote of the story is that the Cinderella character is actually treated really well by almost everyone, almost all of the time. Read the rest of this entry ?

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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.

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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 ?