Posts Tagged ‘1910s’

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Patty Blossom

May 18, 2017

For once, we’ve got a reasonably coherent plot in Patty Blossom. Wells uses the advent of a pair of ridiculous Bohemian types to draw out Patty’s feelings about Phil and Bill, and she finally comes to decisions about both of them.

Sam and Alla Blaney don’t call themselves Bohemians — they claim that only fake Bohemians do that. They’re pretty caricaturish, though. Alla wears shapeless cloths in ugly colors and parts her hair in the middle, and Sam has long hair and writes odd poetry. And actually, if there’s something that’s solidly in Carolyn Wells’ skillset, it’s parodying poetry, and I feel like there should be more of that here. I’m not a huge fan of Wells’ verse, and if one of her mysteries entertains me more than in irritates me I count it as a win, but I do like it when Wells’ other selves find their way into the Patty books. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Room with the Tassels

May 2, 2017

Carolyn Wells’ mysteries are…not very good, in general. The solutions to the mysteries feel like cop-outs. Her detectives and their weird child assistants are entertaining, but because she only ever brings them in for about the last third of the book, they feel like intruders. She’s excessively fond of secret passages, but rarely gets any fun out of them. The characters are inconsistent and usually unappealing, too. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Guests of Hercules

April 26, 2017

I love Alice Williamson, but I don’t trust her at all, so when she was like, “Here, check out Mary Grant. She was brought up in a convent in Scotland and she has ‘wild blood.’ I’m going to take her to Monte Carlo!” I was worried.

A.M. and C.N. Williamson, collectively (and probably also individually), loved Monte Carlo, but I normally avoid their stories set there because reading about gambling makes me extremely anxious. I was excited when The Guests of Hercules opened with a wealthy young girl going out into the world after deciding at the last moment not to be a nun–but only for about a minute, because Alice Williamson isn’t, say, Margaret Widdemer, and when her heroines go out into the world alone, it isn’t always kind to them. Also I’ve, you know, read books before, so from the first mention of Monte Carlo, my brain was shouting, “No, stop, she’s going to get addicted to gambling and lose all her money.” Then a little later I began to wonder whether everything was leading up to an attempted murder. I’m actually not sure how I managed to get through the book.

The things I feared happen roughly as I expected them to happen (I have read books before) but Alice Williamson makes it alright. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Slipper Point Mystery

April 11, 2017

The Slipper Point Mystery is typical Augusta Huiell Seaman: two girls, Doris and Sally, make friends one summer on a town on the New Jersey coast. They find a mysterious room built into a hillside, and set out in search of buried treasure. What they find instead is some local history–but from a recent enough past that someone is around to remember it.

It’s fun, and mostly satisfying, in the way that all of Seaman’s books are fun, and mostly satisfying. It’s a little better than The Vanderlyn Silhouette, maybe, and a little worse than The Boarded-Up House. But it also has what may be my favorite part of any book of hers I’ve read. In one of the final chapters, Seaman switches to a close third person narration from the point of view of Sally’s sister Genevieve, who is about three. Sally and Doris have been carting Genevieve around with them all summer, leaving her with picture books and candy while they hang out in holes in the ground. It’s been clear that Genevieve isn’t too happy about that, but the attitude Seaman gives Genevieve in this chapter is unexpected and amazing. She changes her language a little, and the added formality makes Genevieve seem sort of superior and unimpressed with her elders. Check it out:

True, they had left her eatables in generous quantities, but she had already disposed of these, and as for the picture-books of many attractive descriptions, given her to while away the weary hours, they were an old story now, and the afternoon was growing late. She longed to go down to the shore and play in the rowboat, and dabble her bare toes in the water, and indulge in the eternally fascinating experiment of catching crabs with a piece of meat tied to a string and her father’s old crab-net. What was the use of living when one was doomed to drag out a wonderful afternoon on a tiny, hopelessly uninteresting porch out in the backwoods? Existence was nothing but a burden.

I’m pretty sure Genevieve’s internal rebellion is worth reading the entire 177 humdrum preceding pages.

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The Setons

March 28, 2017

I’ve made myself start reading things that aren’t by Anna Buchan again, but here’s one more from her: her second novel, The Setons. I’m getting to the point where I’ll read something and think, “oh, that’s very Anna Buchan.” The Setons is very Anna Buchan. It also seems to be very autobographical, which is almost, but not quite, the same thing. Anyway, Anna Buchan was a minister’s daughter with brothers who spent at least part of her youth in Glasgow, and so is Elizabeth Seton.

I really enjoyed The Setons, but I haven’t got much to say about it. It’s without much of a plot, in a very natural-feeling way. Elizabeth’s father is sweet and not terribly practical, and Elizabeth has a full time job helping with parish duties and managing her father and the household and her youngest brother, Buff. The mother and eldest brother are dead, and two additional brothers are in India. There’s a visit from a very nice young man, and Mr. Seton has health issues, but these are normal kinds of interruptions.

Then World War I starts, and is a much more significant interruption. One feature of a book that’s very Anna Buchan is that lots of people are going to die in WWI, whether the action of the book takes place during or after it. I don’t know if anything’s ever really made me feel the impact of WWI on the UK the way Anna Buchan’s grieving families have. She makes it feel like sending your sons off to the army and never getting them back is the default, and anything else is a gift. I know that sounds miserable, and it is, a bit. But Buchan has a belief that everything is good and worthwhile in the end, and she makes you feel it too.

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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 Brown Study

January 12, 2017

I have this embarrassing secret, only it’s not particularly secret and I don’t know if I’m embarrassed: sometimes I really like religious fiction. Yes, sometimes it’s cloying, and I’m not into that. But sometimes it’s Amy Le Feuvre being weirdly mystical, or G.K. Chesterton doing whatever the hell he ever thinks he’s doing. And sometimes it’s the kind of thing Grace S. Richmond writes, where religion is about firm ideals and practical good deeds and it’s almost not condescending. I’ve never had a particle of religious belief, but those ideals are compelling, and I don’t need religion to (to a certain extent) share them. Also, you know what else is compelling? Passionate, tortured, hidden self-denial. And The Brown Study is, like, 70% that.

I’ve read so few of Richmond’s books, but they’ve all featured attractive young clergymen, so I’m forced to assume that’s a thing for her. The Brown Study’s variation goes like this: Donald Brown was the minister at a fashionable city church, but he had to take some time off for his health. He moved to a poor area and offers unofficial spiritual support to his neighbors. He realizes that he can do more good there than at his fancy church, and also that his new work makes him a better person, but his old friends all want him to come home, including the girl he loves.

It’s all spiritual pining and being nice to the neighbors, and I enjoyed it thoroughly–although I might regret the nice plates and carpets and things Brown has to leave behind almost as much as he does.

There’s a second, unrelated story to fill out the book. In it, young Julius Broughton schemes to get his sister Dorothy and his engineer friend Kirke Waldron to meet. Once they’ve done that, though, they don’t need his help–they’re perfectly capable of carrying their romance through as straightforwardly as possible.