Posts Tagged ‘1890s’

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Uncanny Tales

October 17, 2017

I’m a bad audience for scary stories, and I know it. First, I don’t usually buy into them, and second, the scarier I find them the less likely I am to enjoy them. Fortunately Mrs. Molesworth’s Uncanny Tales aren’t particularly uncanny.

The first of the stories, “The Shadow in the Moonlight,” was my favorite. It features a shadowy presence that travels around the walls of a room, and it is genuinely creepy, but not so creepy that it scared me. I did wonder at times if the family being haunted was so large because they needed more people to independently confirm the haunting, but if it was, I wasn’t bothered: I liked them. It’s easy to figure out where the ghost is coming from, but what it’s doing and how they get rid of it are clever and cool.

The only other proper ghost story in the book is astonishingly boring and pointless, and I didn’t care about the possible ghost and definite industrial espionage one, either. The others are…fine, I guess. I liked, in a lukewarm way, the one about a young man who breaks his engagement and refuses to tell anyone why, but mostly everything is just sadness and coincidences. The last story in the book appears in my notes only as “insufficiently creepy clock.”

Am I purposely going for the Molesworth books I think I’m less likely to enjoy? Well, yes.

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My New Home

October 13, 2017

My second Mrs. Molesworth was My New Home, which was nice, but never really felt like it got started. The narrative conceit (a young girl telling the story of her own life) is good in theory, but in practice the entire book feels like exposition.

Helena Wingfield (she thinks her middle names are also important, but I do not) was orphaned at a very young age and lives with her grandmother. She doesn’t really interact with other kids, until a nice family nearby starts sending their kids over to learn French from Mrs. Wingfield. Which would be fun to read about, if Mrs. Molesworth wasn’t in full-on tell-don’t-show mode.

The first person narration isn’t the problem. First person usually makes things more immediate, not more distant. An excess of realism might be part of the problem: this could in fact be how a girl in her early teens would tell the story of her childhood, but that doesn’t make it a good way to tell a fictional child’s story. An excess of foreshadowing, plus immediately stopping when you reach the foreshadowed events, is definitely a problem. But you know what? I’m not mad at it. I just think Mrs. Molesworth was capable of writing a version of this book I would have enjoyed much more.

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The Career of Claudia

April 19, 2017

I raced through Frances Mary Peard’s The Career of Claudia, but not because I liked it. Actually, I can only think of one scene I’m fairly sure I enjoyed.

Claudia is a wealthy young woman who’s just graduated from college. She’s emerged a Socialist and a landscape gardener, and those are the only things she wants to talk about. When she moves in with some spinster cousins, she expects to use their house mostly as a home base between landscaping jobs. She meets a nice young man named Harry Hilton at her cousins’ house, and he invites her to come do some landscaping at his estate, mostly because he’s falling in love with her. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Catching Up 2/1/2017

February 1, 2017

For a while there in early to mid-January, I didn’t want to do anything but read. Then I got a little bogged down. Reading often distracts me and cheers me up, but sometimes the world is too scary to be distracted from. Bad things are happening out there. If you’re in the US, I encourage you to call your elected representatives often.*

Anyway, things I’ve read, so that I can hopefully move forward:

Six Girls Growing Older, by Marion Ames Taggart

I don’t know what it says that this is the second time I’ve gotten this far in the series and stopped reading. Possibly that it ought to have ended here? Margery and Laura return home, the two romantic storylines are resolved, and there’s a description of waiting for election results that I found much more interesting and much less depressing last time I read it.

Red Pepper Burns, by Grace S. Richmond

I really, really like Grace S. Richmond, guys. This is a very episodic book about a doctor who lives in the suburbs, and how hot and honorable and good at surgery he is. He also adopts a small child and drives his car very well and falls in love with a widow instead of the flashy young woman who’s falling all over herself to attract him. If you are a person who should read this book, every one of those items will have piqued your interest.

I also listened to audiobooks of Aunt Crete’s Emancipation, Stalky & Co., and Grace Harlowe’s Golden Summer.

Aunt Crete’s Emancipation, read by Cori Samuel, is my favorite thing I’ve listened to from LibriVox. At first I was a little thrown off by hearing an American book in an English accent, but Samuel is a really good reader, and somehow this was just a really fun story to listen to.

Stalky & Co., read by Tim Bulkeley, didn’t really work for me. This is one of my favorite books, and Bulkeley is a perfectly competent reader, but…I don’t know. I think the biggest problem was that I found the character voices silly and distracting.

Grace Harlowe’s Golden Summer was read by ashleighjane, who’s done a bunch of other books in the series. I listened to it to reorient myself in the series, thinking I’d move on to later books I haven’t read before, but it was…uninspiring. Like, I don’t have specific complaints. It was fine. But it did not make me want to read the next book.

*Calling your reps is a good thing to do no matter what your political affiliation is, but if you’re pleased with our new authoritarian government, why are you here reading a blog about books that emphasize things like honor and truth and charity?

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The House With Sixty Closets

December 22, 2016

I started writing a review of The House With Sixty Closets when I was only about twenty pages in, because I was enjoying it so much. This is not that review. I stopped enjoying it.

Here’s the thing: I loved the first section. The second section is worthwhile. The rest of the book is pretty much a dream sequence, and I don’t deal well with those. But I really do unreservedly recommend the description of the sixty closets and how they came to be, and if you really feel like reading about portraits coming to life and giving out allegorical Christmas presents and throwing a party chiefly attended by closets, you can continue.

The book took on another dimension when I learned that the house with sixty closets was a real house and Frank Samuel Child (the author) lived in it and the girl whose parents would like to fit her with a muzzle was in fact one of his daughters. I think this might make the book worse, because it means that only the truthful bits were enjoyable.

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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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Evelina’s Garden

August 10, 2015

I don’t know how I feel about Evelina’s Garden, by Mary Wilkins Freeman. It feels so self-consciously quaint and historical, and no one has a personality.

There’s this girl, and she likes this guy, but she’s too shy or proud ot something to admit it, so she becomes a recluse whose only interest is her garden, and he reluctantly marries someone else but remains secretly devoted to Evelina.

Then along comes her niece, who looks just like her, and his son, who’s bettered himself enough to be a plausible partner for a woman from a slightly higher class, and despite neither of them having the faintest idea of how to interact with other humans, they become secretly engaged. Then Evelina the elder dies, leaving everything to her namesake–as long as she never marries and always takes good care of the garden. At which point Evelina the younger’s young man breaks off their engagement in a fit of misplaced nobility.

I guess I actually know exactly how I feel about Evelina’s Garden: I was a lot more concerned about the garden than I was about the fate of the lovers.